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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 08, 2005)

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AMENDMENT NO. 8 OFFERED BY MR. REHBERG

Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, here we are addressing an issue we have addressed many times over the last several years. I find myself in a precarious position because I do support the agriculture appropriations bill, and I think the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Bonilla) deserves a pat on the back for the fine work he has accomplished over the last several months in putting this piece of legislation together.

The issue I am talking about today is country-of-origin labeling. The thing we cannot kid ourselves about is that the actions that were taken within the Committee on Appropriations will effectively delay country-of-origin labeling's implementation, but, unfortunately, it probably kills it because there is that attempt that is occurring.

This was an issue supported by the House of Representatives and passed, supported by the Senate and passed, and ultimately signed by the President of the United States. What I find ironic is the opponents say this would be costly, difficult to implement, and it is not a safety issue. I brought along a number of articles today that kind of take the wind out of the sails of that argument.

I find interesting that, in the Auburn Journal in northern California, one of the areas that has been allowed to be implemented is seafood. Fruits and vegetables are shortly behind. The only ones that are not being able to be implemented are cattle. So I draw Members' attention to an article in the Auburn Journal dated May 25, 2005.

What this article says is, "Seafood savvy now know where their meal grew up." It states, "In the seafood section at Raley's supermarket, small blue containers line the shelves, filled with red and tan fish. Labels on the clear wrappers give traditional information about the seafood type and nutritional facts. In the bottom right-hand corner, however, a new label is attached: a small white rectangle with bold black print that reads 'Product of Ecuador,' 'Product of China,' or 'Product of U.S.A.'

"Raley's has been labeling its seafood products since January, said Keith Allen, Auburn Raley's meat department manager. While the burden of labeling falls on grocers, it has not been difficult for the meat department staff to adjust to the change. 'It is just a matter of putting the sticker on the package,' he said Monday.

"By naming the country of origin, the labels give savvy customers the opportunity to choose fish from countries with high sanitation standards and better growing conditions. Several customers have already commented on the change, Allen said.

"Annette Eastman, shopping at Raley's Tuesday morning, said she was glad to see the new labels. She would prefer not to buy seafood from countries such as Mexico because she worries that the quality of the water where the fish that are raised is poor.

" 'I would much rather buy something from the U.S.A.,' she said, pointing to the fish fillet labeled 'Product of the U.S.A.' Another shopper, Tammieh Vernon, also said the labels would influence her seafood purchases."

Interesting as well, I pulled this article off the Internet. The title: Country-of-origin labeling good news for Texas shrimp enthusiasts. May 15, 2005.

"Texans who are picky about where their shrimp comes from can now rest assured that they are getting exactly what they want. As of April 4, labeling of fish and shellfish for country of origin and method of production became mandatory. The announcement by the USDA requires retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of the seafood they buy.

" 'It is a win/win situation for Texas,' said Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. 'Texans love to buy Texas products, and this way they will know they are getting the quality they love. In turn, sales will increase, providing a boost to Texas shrimp producers and the State's economy.'

"With these new rules and regulations, more Texas consumers will have the opportunity to buy Lone Star State shrimp. This new regulation enables consumers to quickly differentiate between domestic and imported products, said D'Anne Stites, Texas Department of Agriculture's coordinator.

"Country-of-origin labeling or COOL regulations will make marketing easier as customers can see firsthand what they are getting. Stites said, 'Consumers will be able to ask for Texas shrimp with the knowledge of what is available in front of them.' "

So it is a marketing issue, very clearly. But I think the people of America want to know where their livestock does in fact come from.

It was interesting to see that Japan shut our markets down on Christmas Eve of 2003 and still have not opened them. Unfortunately, 23 percent of our exports go to Japan. And why did they not open their markets and why did they close them in the first place? Because we could not prove that our livestock that we are exporting to Japan did not come from Canada.

So it is not a trade issue. In some ways, it is a safety issue; and that is unfortunate.

I might also point out on May 25 of this year the USDA closed its border to cattle from Durango, Mexico. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns on Tuesday announced that USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has closed the U.S. border to cattle from Mexico's state of Durango due to inadequate health inspection programs there.

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Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As my colleagues noticed, this is about marketing essentially, and it is about the fact that an entire industry was created in places like Texas to take advantage of cheap Mexican calves, bringing them across the border, fattening them up, and selling them in our food system without any knowledge of where they come from. Born, raised, and processed means we are proud of USA agriculture, USA livestock.

There is an unintended consequence, Mr. Chairman. The unintended consequence is the gentleman from Texas's (Mr. Ortiz) very own State loves the country-of-origin labeling that was mandated by that same farm bill on fish. I will read one more time that quote: "It's a win-win situation for Texas," said Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. "Texans love to buy Texas products, and this way they'll know they're getting the quality they love. In turn, sales will increase, providing a boost to Texas shrimp producers and the State's economy."

They love it when it works to their advantage. They are opposed to it when they think it might change something.
This is a good piece of legislation. It may not, it may not be a health issue to the gentleman from Texas, but it obviously is a health issue to some of our trading partners.

On December 23, when the cow was found in the State of Washington that had Mad Cow disease, it took exactly 24 hours for 60 of our trading partners to shut off our exports, 60 of them. One-third have now reopened those markets. Our largest export market has not, and that is Japan. So it is a health issue with them.

The problem that exists right now, and it was very quietly done, but on May 21, as I mentioned before, the state of Durango in Mexico can no longer send live cattle to the United States along the Texas border because they were mixing cattle between two regions within their state, one that has the ability to be exported and the other that does not. These are the trading partners that are sending us their livestock that we do not have the ability to label where it came from.

Unfortunately, bovine TB is contagious, infectious, and a communicable disease. It affects cattle, bison, deer, elk, goats, and other species, including humans, and it could be fatal.

We want to know where our livestock came from. Is it so simple that we cannot understand that we currently exempt some of the issues or some of the products like beads and ball bearings and bolts and nuts and buttons, feathers, hair nets? There are not many exceptions to the labeling laws in this country: rags, ribbons, screws, sponges, wicking, candle, and livestock. Livestock because it is about the pocketbook.

I am here to stand before the Members today and ask them to support the amendment. Give us the opportunity to show that labeling livestock will be met with the same kind of enthusiasm by the consumer and those of us who are truly cattle producers. I am a producer. I still have to deal with this. Perhaps I will have to pay for it. But I know the American consumer will want the opportunity to purchase my livestock because I know where it came from. It is a closed herd. It was born, it was raised, and it is processed in America.

That is what makes America great, is the opportunity to label. Voluntary does not work. If voluntary worked, we would be doing it now. But it does not. Why? Because the meat processors and the supermarkets will not allow us the opportunity to have it labeled. They say they can. They say they might. But we cannot make them, and when we cannot make them, we have no influence nor ability to do it.

Fruits and nuts will soon have country-of-origin labeling as well. It has been allowed to move forward, and what they did is they segregated our support for country-of-origin labeling. They let the fish go. The Texas producers love it. They let fruits and nuts go. California and the rest of the producers will like it. But they will not let livestock go for purely economic reasons.

It is time we send a message to those that are standing in the way and allow us the opportunity to tell the American consumer born, raised, and processed in America means something. Buy American.

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http://thomas.loc.gov

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