“The Board recognizes that we have a federal law on the books; that the regulations to enforce that law are going to be issued as early as the end of this month; and that it will be very difficult to get the law eliminated even if the regulations are damaging to the supply side of the industry,” said TPA President John McClung.

“The Board concluded that the law as written, while well intended, will not accomplish the original objective of encouraging consumers to purchase U.S. grown produce and will be extremely costly and disruptive to the supply side of the industry and to retailers.”

McClung said TPA, like many other organizations around the country, is curious to see just how objectionable the regulations from USDA prove to be—they will be issued sometime after Sept. 30.

“USDA officials have asked the national industry to be patient, on the grounds that the regulations will be much more acceptable to us than the draft guidelines the department put out some months ago,” McClung said.

“In the interim, however, we have notified key Congressional offices that our preference is that the legislation be rescinded or at a minimum rewritten to remove the most problematic provisions. We would not, for example, object if COOL were changed to a voluntary program.”

“This was not an easy decision for the board,” McClung said. “There still are quite a few people in the industry who think consumers will buy U.S. produce in preference to foreign produce, regardless of quality and/or price. We do not envision that happening, except possibly in very narrow circumstances.

“Meanwhile, the cost and legal liabilities clearly outweigh the dubious benefits. Increasingly, other groups are coming to the same conclusions about the bill that we have reached, and are preparing to take action, especially if the anticipated regulations fail to provide the relief we are seeking.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com