Consumer groups are in favor of the country-of-origin labeling requirements, but pushback from neighboring countries and meatpackers have members of a House-Senate panel reconsidering COOL in the new farm bill.
Lawmakers met Wednesday to resume negotiations on the $500 billion farm bill. According to Reuters the risk of international sanctions has some participants debating a repeal or revision to the COOL policy. Canada has considered substantially raising taxes on some U.S. products, including beef.
"I am hopeful that working together we can prevent the imposition of tariffs on a wide array of products important to many states," said House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas in an opening statement. Under congressional protocol, he chairs the farm bill talks.
Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., voiced support of a House provision that was under development and expected to be a repeal clause for COOL.
Soon after the regulations were mandated in 2009, Canada and Mexico approached the World Trade Organization (WTO) claiming the country-of-origin labeling rules violated the North American Free Trade Agreement. The WTO agreed and the U.S. adjusted the requirements earlier this year, but the update is again facing WTO scrutiny.
U.S. meatpackers are also against COOL, viewing the requirements as an added cost with very little payoff. The policy has already led Tyson to cancel orders of Canadian cattle, citing added costs. The effects of COOL are expected to add costs at every stage from cow-calf producers to consumers.
Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow identified the COOL policy as a key issue involved in farm bill negotiations. Another issue relates to funding for the food stamp program.
Lawmakers plan to complete the farm bill by the end of the year. After the government shutdown in October President Obama has identified the farm bill as one of the three key tasks to complete before 2014.
Under the COOL policy, the meat label must list the country where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.