WASHINGTON, DC — February 20, 2003 — The Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) agreed to review how the new country-of-origin labeling law is implemented to minimize the adverse impact on small food retailers and wholesalers after a recent meeting with Food Marketing Institute (FMI) representatives.

“SBA officials expressed strong concerns about the cost and operational burdens this law would impose on FMI’s smaller members,” said FMI Senior Vice President John Motley, who attended the meeting with SBA Office of Advocacy officials. “In fact,” said Motley, “they are concerned about the impact on small companies throughout the food industry, including farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.”

While the Office of Advocacy lacks the authority to change laws or regulations, it scrutinizes the implementation of laws and can issue recommendations to mitigate a law’s impact on small companies, up to exempting them from having to comply.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service estimated the COL record-keeping requirements would cost the industry nearly $2 billion to implement in the first year after mandated labeling takes effect on September 30, 2004.

“The full cost impact of COL on the industry — and ultimately on consumers — will be measured in many billions of dollars,” said Motley. “There is no question the law will hit smaller companies the hardest and, in some cases, drive them out of business.

“We welcome any and all help that SBA can provide, illuminating the detrimental impact on small companies and helping them find cost-effective means to comply with the law.”