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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo. are co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., which would fast-forward the mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) by one year to September 2005 from 2006.

"If it's good enough for T-shirts, it's good enough for T-Bones," Thomas said of the importance of product labeling. "Mandatory labeling should be just that -- mandatory. Consumers should have the right to know where their meat is coming from. We'll continue to fight for our livestock producers to have this important tool in place."

"Wyoming producers and the nation's consumers would benefit from COOL. This is legislation we should implement sooner rather than later," Enzi said.

The bill would also remove the exemption for processed foods once COOL is implemented for other commodities.

Mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities, and peanuts was included in the 2002 Farm Bill.

The FY 2004 omnibus appropriations included a provision to delay mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until 2006.

Thomas and Enzi sent a letter to Senator Stevens, chair of the Appropriations Committee, asking him to resist efforts to make COOL voluntary during the FY 2005 appropriations process. Efforts are being made by House members to strip the "mandatory" language and replace it with a voluntary program. Thomas and Enzi are working to prevent this from being included in the final appropriations package.