Country of origin labeling remains a contentious issue among farm and food interests. Opponents, many of them food processors and purveyors, insist labeling will be cost prohibitive.
Proponents, many of whom are commodity producers, argue consumers want to know from where their food comes and are more likely to purchase home-grown than foreign.
There is some empirical support for both sides of the debate. While cost is almost always a factor, there is little doubt that one of the reasons for the growing trend towards more labeling is at one level or another that it works for producers. Consumers seem to want to know more about what they purchase. Their concerns range from wanting to know who produced the food and where it was grown to how it was grown.
In 1997, a study conducted in New Jersey, showed consumers were more concerned about both the amount of pesticide residue on their produce and the price rather than where the food was grown. At the same time, almost two-thirds of the group indicated they would buy more organic produce if larger amounts were readily available.
In 2001, a survey with participants from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin respondents felt their purchase must support a local family farm or be locally grown or produced. And, as in the previous east coast study, both price and availability played a major role in purchases. Over half told researchers they would buy larger amounts of regionally produced items if they were more widely available and priced the same as their conventionally distributed counterparts.