For the Week Ending January 9, 2009

January 9, 2009

Washington, January 9, 2009 

FINAL MCOOL RULE FINALLY ISSUED
USDA in Thursday’s Federal Register made public its intent to issue a final rule implementing the Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (MCOOL) law. Although the law provides flexibility for the U.S. pork industry, it remains a costly and potentially cumbersome statute, according to NPPC, which did praise USDA for getting the rule out. The MCOOL law requires muscle cuts of pork, beef, lamb and goat meat to be labeled in one of four categories:

•    Category A: Pork from hogs “born, raised and slaughtered” in the U.S. must be labeled a product of the U.S.
•    Category B: Pork from hogs born in Canada but raised and slaughtered in the United States, such as Canadian feeder pigs, must be labeled a product of the U.S. and Canada. Pork from a group of U.S.-born and Canadian-born hogs that are raised and slaughtered in the U.S. also may be labeled in Category B.
•    Category C: Pork from hogs born and raised in Canada but slaughtered in the U.S. must be labeled a product of Canada and the U.S. The final rule allows pork that falls into Category B to be labeled under Category C.
•    Category D: Pork from hogs born, raised and slaughter in Canada and imported into the U.S. must be labeled a product of Canada.

Animals in the United States on or before July 15, 2008, are considered “of U.S. origin.” Ground meat products can be labeled with a list of countries or possible countries from which they were derived. The law also allows producers to use normal business records to verify their hogs’ origin.

USDA MOVES MONEY TO IMPLEMENT MCOOL
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will take $3.18 million out of its $49 million specialty crop block grant budget to implement the Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (MCOOL) program in fiscal 2009. The funds will be used to conduct a retail survey; to accelerate and expand training for state employees so that retail surveillance reviews and supplier audits can occur during the second half of the fiscal year; to develop an audit tracking system; to conduct outreach and educational activities for affected parties; and to hire 10 temporary employees for program administration.

NEW CONGRESS SWORN IN
Members of the 111th Congress, including 54 new House lawmakers and nine new senators – 25 others were re-elected – this week were sworn in. Among their top priorities in the coming weeks, confirming President-elect Obama’s Cabinet appointments, including former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary, and passing a massive economic stimulus package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged approval by mid-February of such a package, which is expected to include up to $1 trillion in tax cuts and new spending, mostly on energy and infrastructure initiatives. During the week, NPPC staff attended a number of welcome receptions for various members of Congress.

LAWSUIT FILED TO STOP CALIFORNIA ‘DOWNER’ LAW
The National Meat Association, supported by the American Meat Institute, recently filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop a California law that prohibits all non-ambulatory, or “downer,” livestock, including hogs, from being processed for human consumption. The groups argue that federal veterinarians should have the discretion to decide if an animal is truly ill or if it just has an injury that doesn’t affect food safety. According to Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) figures, between 0.8 percent and 1 percent of 110 million hogs marketed each year become non-ambulatory from fatigue or injury during transport or shortly after unloading. The vast majority of these pigs, according to NPPC, recover with rest and can be processed without affecting either food safety or meat quality. Condemning non-ambulatory hogs  would create disposal and animal protein supply problems.

AND SO IT BEGINS
Indiana state Sen. Allen Paul has introduced legislation that will establish a moratorium on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the state. His measure, Senate Bill 50, would prohibit construction of new CAFOs between June 30, 2009, and July 1, 2012.

WHAT’S AHEAD

NPPC 2009 MEETINGS SET
Here are the events, dates and locations for this year’s major NPPC meetings:

•    National Pork Industry Forum – March 5-7, Dallas.
•    Spring Legislative Action Conference – April 1-2, Washington.
•    World Pork Expo – June 3-5, Des Moines, Iowa.
•    Fall Legislative Action Conference – Sept. 16-17, Washington.
•    Pork Action Group – Dec. 2-4, Marco Island, Fla.