Consumers will soon be able to know exactly where their fresh food is coming from after a country of origin labeling law went into effect earlier this week.
In the next six months, fresh meats, and fruits and vegetables will have a descriptive label identifying in what country or countries it was produced.
David Preisler, executive director for the Minnesota Pork Board, said the new law will take a few months to gain steam before producers and consumers begin to notice the change.
"It will happen over the next couple of months," said Preisler. "The law went into effect on Oct. 1 and there is a six-month period where there will be education work and communication work that will be done with retailers.
"Full enforcement will not occur until six months from now. That will allow time for products to work through the channels now."
The COOL law requires producers of meats, fruits and vegetables to keep records throughout the production cycle to help identify if it was completely produced in the U.S. or if part of the production was done in another country.
Preisler said pork producers will see a varied level of impact from the new law.
"The impact on producers will depend on where they were sourcing the pigs and also the relationship they have with packers," said Preisler. "Some packers will take Canadian-sourced pigs while some will not. Some packers will only take Canadian-sourced pigs on certain days."
Preisler said some packers resist purchasing pigs that have been in Canada.
"If they have traditionally sold to a packer that maybe doesn't want those Canadian-born pigs, they're going to need to find a different market or they need to find a U.S. source for pigs," said Preisler.
Preisler said many producers get young pigs from Canada and finish them in the U.S.
"There are several hundred producers that have sourced pigs out of Canada at one time or another," said Preisler.
Tom Pyfferoen, president of the Minnesota State Cattlemens Association, said the new laws will likely have very limited impact on cattle producers in Minnesota.
"It's going to pretty much be business as usual for us," said Pyfferoen. "There is going to need to be some accountability.
"People are going to have to sign affidavits that the cattle they are delivering to a sales barn or to a processing facility or even to their neighbor - it will just say the cattle are born or raised in the Untied States."
Pyfferoen said for consumers the new labels will give them a better idea of what they are buying and give the options at different stores.
"When the labels come out, the consumer is going to have a choice," said Pyfferoen. "I don't think they'll have a choice all in the same meat case, but between stores they will have a choice."
Preisler said the Minnesota Pork Board did not support the COOL portion of the 2008 farm bill.
"This is not something we pushed for at all," said Preisler. "We would have much preferred a voluntary approach. The net effect of this is yet to be determined."
Pyfferoen said the Cattlemens Association didn't support the initial language in the law that would have required a different form of record keeping. He said the law now allows for traditional record keeping.
"The main problem our organization had with the original language (for the law) was the record keeping that started when the calf was born," said Pyfferoen. "There was never a real definite measurement identified in there, so it was left up to the (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
"Under the new farm bill it came with normal record keeping procedures that would be acceptable. If you used a calender, tagging dates or other normal record keeping. People were keeping this anyway, they're just going to have to share that information now."
Despite the revision in the language, Preisler said it is yet to be seen how the additional oversight will affect pork producers.
"There is going to be more paperwork a producer will need in order to prove where products originated," said Preisler. "Depending on where pigs have been sourced, it could be very difficult for some producers and very easy for others."