Just a few short days ago, I received an email message from the American Meat Institute (AMI). They were planning a teleconference in a few hours. The subject was COOL and, with the very recent decision by the USDA to double down on their ruling in spite of losing their World Trade Organization case, the content of that press conference was predictable. The AMI was going to be against it and most of the North American meat industry trade associations were going to join them in a lawsuit.
The list of Plaintiffs joining the AMI include the American Association of Meat Processors, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, and Southwest Meat Association. Note the Canadian presence. Expect Mexico to strongly consider joining the group.
Leading the charge, Mark Dopp, AMI senior vice president of regulatory affairs, said this about the complexity of the USDA ruling during the teleconference: “Shoes might say ‘Made in the USA.’ They do not say ‘Leather from cattle born in Canada, harvested in the USA, tanned in South Korea and processed in the USA’, yet that is the sort of labeling that we are now being forced to apply.”
An angry Dopp said, “Congress mandated country-of-origin labeling for meat and poultry -- not lifetime itinerary labeling. Segregating and tracking animals according to the countries where production steps occurred and detailing that information on a label may be a bureaucrat’s paperwork fantasy, but the labels that result will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process. Everyone loses under this rule.”
The meat and livestock organizations, backed by powerful legal counsel, said the USDA rule violates the United States Constitution by “compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest.” They also claimed the rule “exceeds the scope of the statutory mandate, because the statute does not permit the kind of detailed and onerous labeling requirements the final rule puts in place, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious, because it imposes vast burdens on the industry with little to no countervailing benefit.” Because it serves no health requirements, it serves no compelling government interest, either.