The following article was originally posted by Catherine Boudreau of Bloomberg Law:
The livestock and meatpacking industry has largely rejected a Senate draft that would repeal mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules for beef and pork and replace them with a voluntary program.
Congress's first priority should be complete repeal of COOL to ensure Canada and Mexico can't enforce retaliatory measures against the U.S. economy, meat industry representatives said at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on June 25. Also, any delays associated with Congress working out a legislative compromise on voluntary labeling creates more uncertainty for U.S. producers, according to leaders from the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.
“It's time to go ahead and repeal it and allow industry to realize premiums and not make industry realize cost,” Jaret Moyer, president of the KLA testified. “A purely voluntary label done by industry to realize premiums is a much better way than one brought up through this body.”
Some livestock operations support a voluntary label in order to protect the integrity of the U.S. meat label and create a more transparent food supply for consumers.
Leo McDonnell, executive officer and director emeritus for the U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA), said his organization wanted COOL in order to distinguish U.S. meat from imports.
“Half the reason we wanted country-of-origin labeling is because you could [import] a Canadian or Mexican cow, and if they were processed and slaughtered in the U.S., it could be called U.S. beef,” McDonnell said. “There were no definitions for U.S. beef.”
McDonnell added that if a voluntary program isn't included in legislation this time around, it would be a battle to bring it up again.
COOL Proposals in Congress
Lawmakers are working on a solution to a World Trade Organization dispute with Canada and Mexico.
The WTO ruled for the fourth time last month that COOL, which requires meat packers to indicate on retail packaging where each animal was born, raised and slaughtered, discriminates against imported cattle and hogs.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, proposed draft language that conflicts with a measure (H.R. 2393) the House passed June 10.
The House bill would repeal COOL rules for beef, pork and chicken and doesn't contain language on a voluntary labeling program at the Agriculture Department, the agency that has implemented COOL since 2009.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas) has said he doesn't think the government should get involved in a voluntary COOL program and the industry should create a label if there is demand.
Canada, Mexico Retaliation
Canada and Mexico have requested a combined $3.2 billion in retaliatory trade measures against the U.S. if COOL isn't brought into compliance with the WTO decision.
Canada would target a variety of U.S. goods, including beef, pork, apples, rice, corn, maple syrup, pasta, wine, jewelry, office chairs, wooden furniture and mattresses.
The U.S. objected to those estimates during meetings with the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), referring the issue to arbitration that delays—by at least another 60 days—Canada and Mexico's ability to seek sanctions.
Find the original article here.