National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Scott George, a Cody, Wyo. dairy and cattle producer, quickly responded to the just-issued rule regarding the Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling rule (MCOOL). His comments were in very close alignment with statements from the North American Meat Association and the American Meat Institute.
“We are deeply disappointed with this short-sighted action by the USDA,” Mr. George said in a press release. “Our largest trading partners have already said that these provisions will not bring the United States into compliance with our WTO obligations and will result in increased discrimination against imported products and in turn retaliatory tariffs or other authorized trade sanctions.
“As we said in comments submitted to USDA, ‘any retaliation against U.S. beef would be devastating for our producers.’ While trying to make an untenable mandate fit with our international trade obligations, USDA chose to set up U.S. cattle producers for financial losses,” he said in the release. “Moreover, this rule will place a greater record-keeping burden on producers, feeders and processors through the born, raised and harvested label.”
“As cattlemen and women, we do not oppose voluntary labeling as a marketing tool to distinguish product and add value. However, USDA is not the entity that we want marketing beef, and on its face, a label that says ‘harvested’ is unappealing to both consumers and cattle producers.”
Jeremy Russell, NAMA directory of communications and government relations, said, “This Final Rule is not significantly different from the Proposed Rule. It will exacerbate costs, particularly for independent packers that need to commingle animals to run their plants near capacity. And it won’t appease the World Trade Organization concerns.”
Russell noted that Canada and Mexico successfully argued that the current COOL regime is not consistent with the WTO rules and the new rule appears to be in even greater conflict with those same rules. He said the rule requires further discrimination against product derived from livestock born outside the U.S., even when they are raised here.
NAMA will continue to pursue means to avoid the significant economic and legal fallout that this injurious rule creates.
The AMI agreed with the NAMA position, headlining its press release this way: “Burdensome Country-of-Origin Labeling Rule Will Not Satisfy WTO or Trading Partners, But Will Harm U.S. Agriculture.”