New coalition puts the heat on Congress to fix COOL

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The battle over the United States’ mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) law is heating up again as a new coalition of U.S. industry groups are pressuring Congress to take action ahead of an anticipated World Trade Organization decision whether or not the COOL law is compliant with trade obligations.

The new coalition, which includes nearly 60 organizations, including livestock groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council and the North American Meat Association, as well as broader industry groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufactures and more, sent a letter this week to leadership on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees asking Congress to step in and direct USDA to “suspend indefinitely the revised COOL rule if it is found to be in violation of U.S. international trade obligations.”

"If Congress fails to ensure that U.S. COOL requirements comply with our international obligations, U.S. jobs and manufacturing will be put at risk," said Linda Dempsey, Vice President of International Economic Affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.

After a 2011 WTO ruling that certain COOL requirements discriminated against foreign livestock and are not consistent with U.S. WTO trade obligations, USDA revised the law and implemented a new set of COOL requirements in May 2013. The new labeling requirements for covered meat products require details of each production step, including where the animal is born, raised and slaughtered, to be on the MCOOL label. Additionally, the final rule prohibited the use of the multi-country label and eliminated the mixed-origin label.

Just one day after the final rule went into effect, Canada and Mexico objected to the WTO saying the final rule will not bring the United States into compliance. The WTO is expected to issue its final report on the revised U.S. COOL law in late July. Canada and Mexico have indicated they will retaliate against the U.S. if it is found noncompliant by imposing tariffs and duties on a vast array of U.S. products.

In addition to including live cattle and hogs and meat products, the list released by Canada also contained fresh fruits, grains, pasta, bread and other pastries, wine, ketchup, certain metals, jewelry, mattresses and more. The Mexican government has not released a list of commodities but has indicated it too will impose a wide range of trade sanctions affecting many sectors in the United States.

“Together Canada, Mexico and the United States make up one of the most competitive and successful regional economic platforms in the world,” said Jodi Bond, vice president for the Americas at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The disruption of that partnership by WTO noncompliance would have a devastating economic impact on industries including food production, agriculture, and manufacturing.”

In the letter to Congress, the groups said a finding of non-compliance would result in serious economic harm to the U.S. and that it would be “intolerable for the United States to maintain, even briefly, a rule that has been deemed non-compliant by the WTO.”

A late July ruling out of the WTO does not leave Congress much time to take action due to the August break and light congressional schedule this fall leading up to the midterm elections in November. That is why the groups are asking Congress authorize and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to indefinitely suspend the law if the WTO finds it is not compliant. 

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Robert Shumaker    
Alaska  |  June, 30, 2014 at 11:22 AM

It is sad to see the groups lining up against the consumers right to know. That is basically what COOL boiled down becomes. At the same time it supports the buy American, support America theme. NBCA, NPPC and the Chambers should be ashamed of themselves. It begs the question, what is their real agenda. What are those groups afraid of and why? Please let your congressman know that we support COOL and the consumers right to know. :)

MT  |  June, 30, 2014 at 06:47 PM

What is wrong with the NCBA? All segments of the beef industry are profitable and Canada and Mexico are sending record amounts of beef to the United States. The meat packers would love to bring in cheaper foreign beef and make the U.S. consumers think it is American beef so they can get the high prices.

Kansas  |  June, 30, 2014 at 10:06 PM

The Chambers are no better than the blind, deaf and dumb that are always following NCBA. THEY JUST DON'T GET IT! Labeling does not cost, it pays dividends just try and argue about the prices today! Yes we are in a drought but we have told many about the low numbers for almost 20 years and now the cow left the barn. There is still money on the table with the packing industry for producers. When you blend the imports with domestic it even becomes higher profit for packing plants that are globally sourcing product. I find their recent concerns over Brazillian beef to be of interest with the FMD virus in Brazil and now they are probably working to get the seperate states in Brazil passed to export to the USA for their faithful JBS (Brazillian owned company). The market for imported beef into the USA is higher and their reasons are all about profit while the extort from the producers abroad as well. NCBA still buys into the one bogus report by KSU saying that consumers don't care (hundreds of others and some that are valid say the exact opposite).. We better enjoy the prices we have today because with NCBA "leading to the path of destruction for the USA producers", we will not know what tomorrow will bring with the bought and paid for corporate politicians!

Nebraska  |  June, 30, 2014 at 10:52 PM

Isn’t it interesting that these groups want the consumers around the world to know they are buying U.S. food? Even the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF) confirms that foreign consumers bought over $6 billion worth of beef in 2013. Through their knowledge and purchasing power the foreign consumer has add approximately $251 per head, per slaughtered beef animal in 2013. Just think how much money is being left on the table when it comes to our domestic consumers? So why would these groups be against COOL? Maybe the exported beef is not entirely U.S. beef. Maybe someone doesn’t want the domestic market on the table? After all information equals money, whether you share the information or withhold it.

SD  |  July, 02, 2014 at 07:24 PM

Yes, USA cow numbers are down. How about pounds produced? Do YOUR cows weigh more today than the cows in the USA did ten years ago? Where do you suppose that tonnage goes? Could it be there is more beef being produced than some people realize due to that increased carcass weight??? Do you suppose that additional fact that we are producing a higher quality, as well as more fatty beef today creates a NEED for more lean beef to grind with our fatter beef to make the LEAN ground beef our customers want? So....producers in Australia and other places where grass fed lean beef is the rule rather than the exception are filling that demand for the grinding meat. No big, bad conspiracy at all. More variety in the beef product to give more consumers what they want. COSTS of labelling exist! THat is the major reason I'm agains COOL, as well as the fact it idn't give consumers what the have often stated they want...FARM of origin. Proponents of COOL did NOT want consumers to be given the RANCH of origin in their law! Further, there are dozens of source identified beef brands on the market where the owners proudly identify COOL needed. Redundant. Costly. Useless due to too little information.

Kansas  |  July, 02, 2014 at 10:25 PM

Maxine, I know there are some smart producers in South Dakota but I have to question your comments. NO my cows are smaller than 10 years ago and my calves finish alot faster than 10 years ago at probably 150lbs smaller than our early day exotics we fed. Now what your excuse? Did you purchase your own operation or inherit the farm? It does make a difference in how you operate and see things. Don't trust politicians or all emails you get (I know you won't like to believe this but not everything on the internet is true, much like your politicians when they come and visit).. Give me a reason to believe what you stated. So far I think the overproduced language that was used to me in 1998 by some other fools also stated that we had no demand when we got $58.00 for fats back then.. They were all terribly mistaken and liars! Imports! We have demand today and the restaurants are full of good consumers who do care.. WE honestly should make the COOL law even stronger if we want to lead into the future. Pay attention it is coming and the train left the station several years ago.

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