Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden spoke out today in support of Country-of-Origin labeling (COOL), following a decision by the World Trade Organization Oct. 20 on whether the law is unfair to foreign meat producers.
“COOL was not found to be non-compliant with WTO standards, but there are concerns about its current implementation,” Von Ruden said.
He believes that COOL implementation rules can corrected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture administratively to address WTO concerns.
“Farmers Union believes the USDA can make necessary changes to COOL while maintaining its integrity and its important role in bolstering consumer confidence and securing value for meat produced by America’s farmers.”
WTO found that COOL in its current amended form – amended after a similar ruling in 2012 – discriminates against the Canadian and Mexican livestock industries.
COOL is a labeling law that requires retailers, such as full-line grocery stores and club warehouse stores, notify their customers of the source of certain foods, including muscle cut and ground meats (beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat and chicken); fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng.
“Farmers Union has stood behind COOL from its inception, and we will continue to push forward,” Von Ruden said. “We believe consumers want to know – and have the right to know – where their food originates.”
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson reminded lawmakers this week of the strong support in rural America and among consumers in general for the popular labeling law.
“American consumers want to know where their food comes from, and America’s family farmers and ranchers are proud to provide that information,” said Johnson. “Nothing about today’s ruling changes that rudimentary fact.”
A May 2013 public opinion poll found that more than 90 percent of consumers support COOL. “We are confident that given that level of support, Congress will reject all heavy-handed attempts to make legislative changes to this important labeling law,” Johnson said.
Since its passage in 2002, COOL has been under constant attack both domestically – by trans-national meat processors – and internationally. On each domestic occasion, the rulings have come down in support of COOL. This most recent ruling is expected to take months to resolve, as the WTO process can be slow.
“Now is not the time to change the law,” Von Ruden stressed. “Farmers Union looks forward to working with key players to see the WTO process through to an ultimate conclusion – one that is positive for our farmers and for consumers who have the right to shop with confidence, knowing where the food in their cart really comes from.”