Wednesday, Mike Smith of Harris Ranch in California testified before the House Ag Livestock Subcommittee on the effects of COOL on the cattle industry. While proponents of the COOL rule tout consumer favorability, Smith pointed out that Harris Ranch’s experience has mirrored the findings of the Kansas State University Study; that COOL is a mandatory marketing program that consumers pay little attention to and that has had no impact on demand for or the price of beef.
“The K-State study actually measured how Americans vote,” said Smith. “Americans vote with their pocketbook by purchasing beef, the vast majority don’t consider COOL in their purchasing decision. Why then would we incur the costs of a program that the consumer is not demanding? As a cattle feeder and packer, Harris Ranch has experienced the costs associated with implementing COOL. From burdensome record keeping, to line sorting and segregation, and to the actual label itself, we have been paying the costs of COOL since it went into effect in October of 2008.”
Smith pointed out that in addition to costs to comply with the rule, cattlemen and women have also faced discounts for cattle that originate in either Canada or Mexico ranging from $35 to $60 per head. Canada and Mexico are two of our largest trading partners, importing over $1 billion each in 2014, accounting for nearly one-third of all beef exports.
“Why would our own government want to hurt our industry for a simple marketing program that the vast majority of the industry does not want and the consumer does not use,” asked Smith. “COOL is a failed experiment. It has added to the costs of production of beef and resulted in discounts borne by American ranchers, the U.S. has been found out of compliance with our WTO trade obligations three times, and soon to be a fourth; and our two closest trading partners are potentially months away from instituting retaliatory tariffs against multiple industries, damaging our economy and costing jobs.”
Smith urged Congress to repeal COOL once the WTO makes its ruling, expected in mid-May, before retaliation is implemented.