Posts tagged ‘USDA’

Country of Origin Labeling

The United States Department of Agriculture has announced that the implementation of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), began on September 30, 2008. COOL became law in the 2002 Farm Bill but implementation has been delayed twice by Congress.

COOL is a provision in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills that require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of beef (including veal), lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts.

Essentially, COOL is a marketing program which ensures that consumers receive one piece of information about covered commodities: the country of origin. It cannot be construed as a food safety issue because it makes no changes in who can supply commodities or the requirement for supplying commodities in the marketplace. All food products offered to U.S. consumers have already passed existing food safety standards. COOL is administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) arm of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) because it is a marketing program; food safety issues are handled by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

COOL will provide information to consumers regarding the origin of meat covered commodities. This is beneficial from a consumer standpoint. However, COOL excludes valuable products such as food service products (restaurants) and processed products. These exclusions represent a major portion of the retail market and will change the competitiveness of meat industries.

Listen to my podcast about COOL here:

October 22, 2008 at 7:00 am

Word on the street: USDA forecast overly optimistic

First reported in Stu’s blog the farm gate, the local word on the street is that USDA is too optimistic on their crop production estimate for 2008. Farmers in my locality are wondering ‘where is this corn coming from?’ I know several farmers that drive truck and they also indicate that parts of the midwest look o.k., but not ‘great’. Of course time will tell whether or not USDA is accurate, but locally the word is that they are too optimistic in their yield predictions.  Perhaps USDA believes the technological advances in corn breeding will overcome the weather challenges we’ve seen this year.

August 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm

USDA: Synthetic Feed Additive Allowed in Organic Poultry

Organic doesn’t always mean 100% organic. That’s certainly not a secret to those of us in agriculture, but I imagine the typical lay-person probably has no idea that synthetic components can still be used in “organic” food. In fact, foods carrying the official USDA organic seal may contain up to 5% non-organic ingredients.

Case in point: methionine. Methionine is a synthetic feed additive used in organic poultry production. Ohio has a reliable poultry (and turkey) industry, although I am not aware of what percentage of that industry is organic.

Methionine was set to be removed from organic poultry production in 2005 and again in October, 2008. The current proposal placed at the regulating agency, USDA, by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) would allow synthetic methionine use to continue in organic poultry production until October, 2010.

The argument by organic poultry producers is simple: there is no sufficient replacement for methionine. In fact, there are natural products that can be used in place of methionine, but the supply of these natural alternatives is apparently lacking.

I surmise that the USDA will accept the proposal by the NOSB and methionine will continue to be used as a synthetic feed additive in organic poultry production. Is this bad? I make no judgment whether this practice is good or bad. The point of this post is to inform non-farm readers that not everything marketed as organic is free of synthetic additives.

If you really want to live the organic food lifestyle, free of synthetic additives, you must purchase food that clearly states “100% Organic” on the package. If the food package states “organic” or “made with organic ingredients,” it leaves the door open for the food manufacturer to legally use synthetic additives.

If you can’t sleep, you can read the full story in the federal register on methionine use in organic poultry production here:

August 5, 2008 at 7:00 am


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