Western Growers says it is gratified by the United States Department of Agriculture's collaboration with industry as the federal agency published its proposed rule on mandatory country of origin labeling, as required in last year's Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm Bill 2002).

The fresh produce trade association praised the agency for its flexibility and its responsiveness to growers, shippers, retailers and other industry partners.

The rules, which go into effect Sept. 30, 2004, call for perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables) and peanuts to be labeled at retail stores to indicate their country of origin. The rules also apply to meat, fish and other products.

“We are pleased and encouraged that they were receptive to stakeholders,” said Matt McInerney, Western Growers Executive Vice President. “We worked hard to get them to hear our concerns and I think the final rules reflect that. They decided a common sense approach was going to be much more effective than a bureaucratic maze.”

McInerney said the association was especially satisfied in the areas of record keeping, labeling, third-party audits and clarification of enforcement and penalties.