Opinion: Stabenow's COOL Legislation Guarantees Retaliation

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By: Philip Ellis, NCBA President

COOL is a program that has had no benefit to U.S. beef producers or consumers and it violates our trade agreements. Regardless of how you measure impact: demand, price, or consumer trust; COOL fails them all. Four times the WTO has been abundantly clear, COOL discriminates against our trading partners. Now we're only months away from retaliation, and we have very few legislative days to find a solution. Both Canada and Mexico have stated that they will not accept Senator Stabenow's voluntary label and they will move swiftly for retaliation. The good news is there is still an easy solution and it's never been more apparent - repeal.

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Given the position of our trading partners, the impending retaliatory tariffs, and the stance of our members, full repeal of this legislation is the only viable solution. It is the only solution that brings us in line with our international trade obligations. Moreover, it takes the federal government and bureaucracy out of the equation and allows cattle producers to do what we do best, market to our consumers and build trust. It is time we stop jeopardizing billions of dollars of trade and dozens of other industries while we desperately cling to this internal squabble.

After years of denial, supporters of COOL now acknowledge that retaliation is real and that it will take place if we do not act. Our economy is built on trade with our neighbors and our neighbors are galvanized that they will not accept compromise. The time to find a compromise is over. Discrimination against foreign livestock has always been COOL's cornerstone, and for that reason it will never comply with the trade obligations we agreed to.

Supporters had a decade to fix it, but have refused to act on the belief that somehow consumers would embrace it, prioritizing COOL above trade obligations. But consumers vote with their pocketbook and they have proven they prefer industry branded programs and production specific labels to government-mandated origin labeling. The industry has always stood ready to provide consumers the information they want and are willing to pay for, but without consumer willingness to pay the costs of COOL, beef producers are left with the expense of this failed program.

The entire U.S. economy and industries without even a dog in this fight will soon suffer because a select few have decided to dig their heels in. Now is time for repeal. COOL lost at the WTO, COOL lost in the House, and it's time to move forward.

Philip Ellis is President of National Cattlemen's Beef Association

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