Edwards in Iowa

John Edwards said Tuesday that he favored immediate implementation of “country of origin labeling” for foods sold in the United States. In a telephone press conference with Iowa news reporters, the Democratic presidential candidate repeated his support for a range of proposals favored by more populist-leaning ranchers and farm organizations.

Former Sen. John Edwards in Iowa

COOL (country of origin labeling) was included in the 2002 farm bill. It required food producers to say on labels where their goods were grown and processed. The requirement was lobbied against and then delayed. (The law stalled while Edwards was still in the Senate; the candidate sidestepped a question as to what he had done at the time –if anything — to resurrect COOL.) Edwards said Tuesday that COOL “needs to be put into place and implemented immediately.”

Sen. Hillary Clinton also favors implementation of COOL. Barack Obama hasn’t declared a position on country of origin labeling.

Edwards repeated Tuesday a wide range of positions that have been pressed by ranchers in the Great Plains. The former North Carolina senator said that he favored a “strong national ban on packer ownership” of hog or beef operations, to help stem the spread of large-scale hog operations. (He also favored a “moratorium” on the construction or expansion of hog farm lagoons.) Edwards said he favored enforcement of laws against anti-competitive mergers. And he said he would push for a $250,000 per person limit on crop subsidies.

The COOL issue has taken on greater political weight as imported foodstuffs from pet grub to toothpaste, often from China, have been found to be tainted. It makes for an unlikely political coalition — as the interests of populist farmers on the Great Plains intersect with “foodies” traipsing the aisles at Whole Foods Markets.

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