GAO report disputes USDA MCOOL cost estimates

WASHINGTON, D.C.- A new report issued today by the U.S. General Accounting Office on the MCOOL legislation, disputes initial cost estimates for implementing the law from the USDA, without providing any new information, stated the NPPC today.
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“It appears that the GAO report disputes USDA cost estimates, however, many questions still remain and further study is needed,“ said NPPC President Jon Caspers, a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa. “While pork producers must be concerned about costs; costs are only half of the story. We must also look at the fact that there are no demonstrable benefits for America’s pork producers or for U.S. consumers.“

According to Caspers, the USDA, the agency responsible for implementing MCOOL, presented a report earlier this year estimating that the implementation of the legislation would cost approximately $1.9 billion – costs that will ultimately be borne by retailers and meat industry processors and packers, and which will eventually be passed back to America’s pork producers.

“Now that the GAO report is out and raising questions on the initial USDA cost estimates for a voluntary program and is recommending that “an accurate estimate of the record-keeping burden“ be performed under the final program rule, than this is all the more reason to obtain a thorough and complete cost-benefit analysis from the USDA,“ he said. “Such a cost-benefit analysis will fully detail all costs from producer to retailer and the benefits being offered to U.S. consumers.“

The GAO report was requested by Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), supporters of the legislation, who are urging that MCOOL be implemented without further delay, despite the ongoing concerns associated with the law.

Caspers says the GAO report highlights the fact that current federal programs, such as the National Organic Program, are not compatible with MCOOL in terms of similar origin identity requirements. In addition, he said the report fails to consider that these programs are “fee for service“ programs that include several costs including third party audits, record-keeping and other on-farm production fees.

NPPC urges members of Congress to support replacing the current mandatory country-of-origin labeling law with a workable voluntary program for hogs and pork, Caspers said. “It is time to focus and sharpen the debate on the costs and benefits of the current MCOOL for both consumers and America’s pork producers,“ he said. “Cool heads and logic need to prevail on this issue, rather than the heated rhetoric and hearsay we have heard all along. It is simply too important to our nation’s consumers, and the many thousands of people who could be put out of business, if we do not take careful and thoughtful review of this law.“

Source: National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) - 10th September 2003

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