Meat industry associations quick to attack the new MCOOL rule

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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. 

Beef label “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.”

During a quickly organized press conference, AMI vice president of regulatory affairs Mark Dopp expressed the organization’s “extreme disappointment” that the AMS moved ahead with the ruling, ignoring the lengthy comments about the adverse effects of the policy.  

“Despite a massive outpouring of concern from affected companies and major trading partners, (it) is incomprehensible and recklessly disregards the potential adverse retaliatory trade responses from Canada and Mexico,” he said.   

With no health or public welfare issues at stake, Dopp is especially upset with the speed of which the AMS regulation will be implemented.  It goes into effect immediately after it’s published in the Federal Register which he said could happen as early as tomorrow, certainly no later than Monday.

“It is incomprehensible that USDA would finalize a controversial rule that stands to harm American agriculture, when comments on the proposal made clear how deeply and negatively it will impact U.S. meat companies and livestock producers. This rubber stamping of the proposal begs the question of the integrity of the process: Many people spoke, but no one at USDA listened,” Dopp said. 

 “There is a virtual certainty that several meat-packing establishments will ultimately close because of the costs they will be forced to incur in order to implement the proposal’s requirements” said Dopp, emphasizing that statement by reading a plea from the comments section to “save my job.”

“In effect, the agency is picking winners and losers in the marketplace in order to provide information to consumers that recent research shows they care little about and do not wish to pay for,” AMI said.

Operations on the northern and southern borders would be impacted most severely because their businesses are premised on free trade in meat and livestock across international borders, and the new rule will have a particularly burdensome impact on them in terms of segregation and labeling, which suggests that the U.S. government is essentially picking winners and losers in the international marketplace.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Final Rule for mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program is online at

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Chuck Jolley, a veteran food industry journalist and columnist.

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arkansas  |  May, 23, 2013 at 08:59 PM

I don't know what the big deal is. They can still bring in their cattle and process them they just have to put a sticker on the package that say mexico or canada. They want to buy these cheap subsidized cattle and pass them off as mine or my neighbors down the road. If the american public want american it is their right. The only reason they dont like it is greed they could careless about ranchers who don't live around a border who can buy these cheaper cattle!

alberta  |  May, 24, 2013 at 02:57 AM

Brad please tell me where or what subsidies I can receive as I seam to be missing out on them

TX  |  May, 24, 2013 at 08:23 AM

Ever noticed how the "industry leaders, associations, packers, etc..." want to have animal ID tracking systems for NON-DISEASE tracking purposes and claim that consumers want to identify the U.S. ranch that their beef came from; and then on the other hand, those same consumers can't even know what country their beef came from, let alone what ranch in a foreign country the beef came from. Sorry oligarchs, you can't have it both ways. If you get rid of MCOOL for foreign beef, then get rid of NAIS for domestic beef NON-disease tracking.

Corrine Wynne    
May, 24, 2013 at 09:19 AM

Aw~ These whiney cattle farmers. I have thousands of cattle and yet I have NO problem with these extra requirements. See what the horse slaughter industry is bringing and its NOT even open yet. I can't wait-ya'll backed the industry of killing horses you are in for restrictions, regulations, proof, responsibility thanks to pro-horse slaughter! Everything was going fine until that industry reared its ugly head. And the ag gag laws all yall want and the right to farm, holy Moses! the beef industry is going to get regulated to the point a USDA inspector has to wear Hazmat suits visit your house and interview your cows before they can become steaks.....where did you all think this was going to go? When they open the slaughter plants and a sliver of horse meat is found in US foods we can kiss the good ol beef industry goodbye! They will have you fill out legal documents and track your animals from the day you breed a calf, get them DNA'd, drug screened then they can nurse, then they will check them daily for bugs and drugs, then, if, IF they pass they can be loaded, DNA tested make sure they R cows, then you find yourselves footing the bill, while an inspector tests and types your data in a computer, then you can drive to the slaughter plant, then they will unload one at a time, check the computer, pull DNA, charge a fee, then on to slaughter, before which they charge you for pulling blood testing for drugs, bugs, ands illnesses, after another computer check (oh yeah this takes weeks)then the cow gets slaughtered, if the meat passes then you have been approved to do the next trailer of cows. And you all are complaining now about a sticker, wait til horse slaughter comes to town. Pro-slaughter didn't tell u that did they?

Tx  |  May, 24, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Corrine, you don't seem to understand what the basics of the NAIS law says: "it is intended for disease tracking only". USDA never proposed the system for food safety or non-disease tracking purposes, but others (perhaps you too) want to hijack the system for those other purposes. I hope the packers can find that your thousands of cattle do not fit their quality grades or marbling scores (nothing related to disease or food safety, but traceable) and will discriminate appropriately to drive down the price on your product. Regarding horses, yes the slaughter ban has damaged the industry. On the other hand, I've never seen a horse drug or wormer that did not have a withdrawal period, instead they all say "Not intended to be used on horses for slaughter for food purposes". That would rule out every horse in America for slaughter for food purposes.

May, 30, 2013 at 08:38 AM

Corrine - your comment borders on the hysterical. Quick question - do you not consider yourself a "cattle farmer"? You're quick to flaunt your "thousands" of cattle...maybe you raise miniature cows outside of NYC for sale to petting zoos? Find a new publication to read and subsequently rant.

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