November 7, 2003
The Honorable Robert Bennett The Honorable Herb Kohl Chairman Ranking Member Senate Appropriations Committee Senate Appropriations Committee SD-431 SH-330 Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Henry Bonilla The Honorable Marcy Kaptur Chairman Ranking Member House Appropriations Committee House Appropriations Committee 2458 Rayburn HOB 2366 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
As you know, last night the Senate spoke forcefully in support of the bipartisan Daschle-Enzi country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) amendment by a vote of 58 to 38. I write today to urge you to ensure that the final agriculture appropriations conference report does not hinder the implementation of the COOL law.
On Monday, November 3, 2003, the USDA issued the proposed COOL rule. The public now has 60 days to comment on the rule. Given that we are in the middle of this rule-making process, Congress should not intervene at this time. If problems arise, the USDA has the ability and discretion to correct them. If the final USDA rule proves problematic, Congress can address the matter through the House and Senate authorizing committees.
There are only four meat packers in our nation that control 80 percent of the beef in the market. They are opposed to COOL because they want to continue to sell imported beef as if it were U.S. beef. However, I believe that the public's right to know where their food comes from and the needs of America's small farmers overrides the desire of these large packers to maintain their enormous market share.
Now is not the time, nor is it the place to change a law that has yet to be implemented. I urge you to maintain the Senate's position and to give small farmers and ranchers a fighting chance to market their products and give consumers the information they need and want.
John F. Kerry