Senate Agriculture Committee discusses COOL repeal amendment

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 14, 2013 - The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee began its markup of the 2013 farm bill this morning with senators offering amendments, including one that sought to repeal mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for livestock and poultry.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., offered, and subsequently withdrew, an amendment that would have required the USDA to drop its efforts to issue a final rule to modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut commodities covered under the COOL program.

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The proposed rule is an attempt to come into compliance with a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on COOL.

The proposed rule, published in the March 11 Federal Register, would modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut covered commodities to require the origin designations to include information about in what country each of the production steps - born, raised, and slaughtered - occurred. Further, it would remove the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts.

Johanns called the rule complicated and a “regulatory nightmare.”

In June 2012, the appellate body of the WTO affirmed an earlier WTO panel decision finding that U.S. COOL requirements for certain meat commodities discriminated against Canadian and Mexican livestock imports.

Johanns and other Republican senators said the Canadian government is considering retaliatory measures against the rule.

“I'm worried we'll get hammered with another WTO case,” Johanns said. “Canada is going to enforce its rights.”

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., defended the program.

“A lot of things we do around here are complicated,” Baucus said. “Consumers want it.”

Johanns indicated that he may bring the amendment up on the Senate floor.

To view the proposed rule, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5103078

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