In a meeting today with White House Domestic Policy Council staff, R-CALF USA and other farm and consumer groups urged that President Obama direct his U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, and his Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to steadfastly defend the United States’ recently implemented country of origin labeling (COOL) law and regulations.
The White House Domestic Policy Council is responsible for ensuring that domestic policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President’s stated goals and it monitors the implementation of the President’s domestic policy agenda.
“Our message was that if the President successfully defends COOL, then COOL will become the only livestock competition-related campaign promise the President will have achieved during his two terms in office,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
Referencing the President’s abandonment of his campaign promises to better enforce antitrust laws and restore competition in U.S. livestock markets, Bullard said COOL is the only significant livestock competition reform still on the table.
The COOL law and its implementing regulations were recently upheld on constitutional and statutory grounds by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The favorable COOL ruling arose from a 2013 lawsuit filed by domestic and foreign meatpackers and their allies.
While COOL has been upheld by U.S. courts, Bullard said an appeal is underway at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to determine if the international tribunal will recognize the United States’ sovereign right to inform consumers about the origins of their food.
Bullard explained that congressionally-passed domestic laws like COOL are also susceptible to being undermined in trade agreements. He said about 80 percent of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement involves rewriting domestic policies, including food safety, and that the President must not allow his trade negotiators to weaken COOL in the TPP or in any other trade agreement.
“We need the President and his Cabinet to send a strong message to the WTO, to Congress and to other countries that the U.S. will maintain its robust and accurate food labeling system that informs consumers as to where their meat products were born, where they were raised, and where they were slaughtered.
“This may be our last opportunity to meet face-to-face with the President’s Domestic Policy Council on this issue and we hope they have listened and will carry out our united request,” concluded Bullard.