The American Meat Institute (AMI), which represents packers and processors, has lobbied heavily against country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and published a fierce print ad (.pdf) accusing COOL supporters of being protectionists (see image below).
This accusation outraged the Ranchers Cattlemen's Legal Action Fund (R-Calf), one of several disparate trade associations that seek to represent the interests of ranchers. R-Calf is a prominent supporter of COOL (see fact sheet [.pdf]). After several rounds of angry letters back and forth, R-Calf worried in a June 18 letter (.pdf) about the level of AMI influence with the Secretary of Agriculture on this issue:
If AMI professes to know what requirements the Secretary intends to impose on industry participants to implement the COOL law, then AMI must have been involved in unlawful, ex parte communications with the Secretary in order to obtain such knowledge. If this is the case, then the Secretary’s action of June 15, 2007, to reopen the public comment period for 60 days for the proposed rule for COOL for beef, lamb, pork, and other commodities is a shell game, inasmuch as the outcome of the rulemaking process is already known by AMI before the agency even considers public comments.If you don't believe the fix is already in, express your own view about whether producers should be required to inform you about the country of origin for your meat. Submit your own public comment to USDA before August 20 (see here for current links and here for instructions on submission).
[Update next day: Here is an improvement on the instructions for sending comments to USDA: "Comments are due August 20 and should be submitted online at www.regulations.gov. Additional means of comment submission are via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail to Country of Origin Labeling Program, Room 2607-S, Agricultural Marketing Service, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 0254, Washington, DC 2025-0254; or by fax to (202) 720 – 1112.. Additional information on this and the COOL program can be found at http://www.ams.usda.gov/cool."]