In early September Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) reached out to Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to draft a bipartisan letter to demonstrate the U.S. Senate’s resolve to defend the nation’s 2002 country of origin labeling (COOL) law. Today, with the signatures of 32 Senators, their bipartisan, pro-COOL letter was sent to the chair and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.
“As the end of the fiscal year approaches, we urge you to reject efforts to weaken or suspend Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) through any continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations bill,” the Senators wrote.
Opponents of COOL, primarily importers of foreign meats, foreign governments, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and multinational meatpackers, are fighting persistently and aggressively to end COOL on three fronts.
They tried unsuccessfully to eliminate COOL in the 2014 Farm Bill and are now trying to convince Congress to eliminate it within the FY 2015 appropriations process. They lost three recent court decisions, first in the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that found COOL to be constitutional and consistent with U.S. laws and then twice in decisions by the District of Columbia’s appeals court to uphold the district court’s ruling.
With the help of foreign interests, opponents have achieved some level of success in the third front they have opened against COOL. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is facilitating a global attack on the U.S. COOL law through complaints filed by the governments of Canada and Mexico and joined by other major beef exporting countries including Brazil and Australia that, like Canada and Mexico, do not want their beef labeled in the U.S. market.
Ironically, it was a 2012 adverse decision by the WTO that caused the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to tighten the COOL regulations in 2013 so meatpackers would no longer have the flexibility to mislabel beef produced exclusively in the U.S. with a label claiming the meat was instead produced in multiple countries.
COOL opponents want the more accurate 2013 COOL regulations rescinded claiming they are as bad as or worse than the regulations implemented prior to the WTO decision.
The Senators disagree: “The United States has the right to implement these popular and commonsense labeling laws,” they wrote adding, “Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from and farmers should be able to market their livestock as born and raised in America.”
“This bipartisan letter sends a strong signal indicating that the Senate won’t tolerate the ploy by self-interested meatpackers and their allies to deprive consumers of information as to where their food is produced and U.S. producers of their opportunity to encourage purchases of U.S.-produced beef,” said R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz.
“We commend Senators Tester and Enzi and all the other Senators on the letter for taking a strong stand in support of COOL,” Schultz added.