Charles Stenholm thinks the debates over mandatory country-of-origin labeling and a national animal identification system have become confused with hyperbole, false statements and out and out hypocrisy.
The former Democratic congressman from Texas and now senior policy advisor at Olsson, Frank & Weeda in Washington, D.C. told MEATPOULTRY.com: "You can’t support a federally mandated COOL program and at the same time be against federally mandated animal identification. That doesn’t make sense."
He supports USDA’s NAIS even though, he commented, "it’s been terribly mis-managed from the word ‘Go.’" He believes the program could be revised into a "workable compromise," he said, that would emphasize food safety, traceback and disease control.
The hypocrisy comes in, he said, because "these people who support COOL but are against animal identification basically want to keep Canadian and Mexican cattle and hogs out of the United States but want to export to those countries. But you can’t have it both ways." Earlier this month, speaking at the Ag Media Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, Stenholm commented: "How can you be 100 percent in favor of COOL and 100 percent against national animal identification? Labeling requirements should be a food-safety issue."
He told MEATPOULTRY.com that voluntary COOL has proven effective. "There’s a lot of country-of-origin labeling going on in a legitimate way in terms of marketing," he said.
COOL and animal identification are, to a degree, complicating factors in U.S. efforts to reach free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Stenholm told the media summit that FTOs with these countries "will then set a pattern where we get momentum to get a [new] World Trade Organization agreement" that would, economists predict, help take the global economy out of the current recession.
But Stenholm cautioned that "with all the challenges in front of Congress right now, dealing with this isn’t at the top of the priority list. But that might give us time for cooler heads to prevail."