Seafood labeling on Senate fast track

PHOTO/Journal file
FAIRBANKS -- Rules requiring seafood to be labeled by country of origin would go into effect faster than previously agreed under legislation approved by the U.S. Senate last month.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, amended an international trade bill to require the new labels within 180 days of the legislation becoming law. The Senate passed the trade bill May 23.

Last month, the Senate passed a farm policy bill requiring country-of-origin labeling within two years. The trade bill language would speed up that requirement.

The labels would be required for retail sales. The requirement would apply to all perishable agriculture products and seafood.

Alaska salmon fishermen hope the requirement improves their ability to market their catch in the face of expanding exports from foreign fish farms.

The Senate bills must still be reconciled with House versions.

The Senate trade bill also would allow fishermen to qualify for aid whenever cheap fish imports force prices down more than 20 percent in comparison to a five-year average. Fishermen could get up to half their lost revenue reimbursed, with a cap of $10,000 per fisherman.

The bill also authorizes money for retraining fishermen.

Workers in other industries have benefited from such provisions, Murkowski said.

"However, an independent fisherman does not go to the dock and receive a pink slip," he said. "Instead, he hears the latest prices for salmon on the radio, and that’s how he learns that his family’s livelihood is threatened."

06/09/2002 - 8:00pm