The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and Western Growers Association (WGA) updated their respective memberships recently on the status of work by the associations’ joint country of origin labeling (COOL) task force, notifying them that COOL best practices would be available to the nation’s produce supply chain in a matter of weeks.

“We are pleased to report that we expect to be able to provide our recommended best practices in early June – just a couple of weeks away,” wrote task force co-chairs Mike O’Brien of Schnuck Markets Inc., and Tom Deardorff of Deardorff Family Farms.

“In the meanwhile, we once again ask for your patience and consideration of your business partners as you make decisions related to COOL,” O’Brien and Deardorff said.

Both associations expect the COOL reforms contained in the 2007 farm bill to become law in the near future, despite a procedural glitch this week that is requiring Congress to resubmit its bill to the White House.

In the meantime, they reminded the associations’ members that there are no implementing regulations yet to guide industry execution, and that regulations expected from U.S. Department of Agriculture in July will now be much different from the rules proposed as a result of the 2002 farm bill’s COOL provisions.

The task force co-chairs urged industry members to wait for its recommendations, which will be based on the farm bill’s much-needed reforms, rather than risk “needless requests” of the supply chain.

“We understand that there have recently been some communications between buyers and suppliers about providing origin information,” O’Brien and Deardorff said. “None of us wants to see unnecessary costs added at a time when all of us are already being impacted by multiple inflationary pressures.”

The communication also stressed that the task force, which is made up of industry members from throughout the supply chain, is working on reasonable solutions that incorporate much of what the industry is already doing.

“We plan to recommend only the necessary actions that will satisfy what we expect to see in the regulations,” the letter read. It can be viewed at www.pma.com/issues/BestPracticesUpdate.cfm.