Study finds COOL had no role in drop in imports of Canadian cattle

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2015 - An Auburn University professor says his research shows that U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling rules (COOL) played no role in the decline in cattle exports to the U.S. from Canada and Mexico.

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Robert Taylor, the Alfa Eminent Scholar in Agricultural Economics and Public Policy at Auburn's College of Agriculture, said the declines in shipments to the U.S. since the revised COOL law went into effect in 2008 can be explained by a number of factors, none involving COOL. The COOL rules call for meat from animals from different countries to be segregated during processing, and meat packages to be labeled with where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

While COOL opponents lay the decline in imported cattle directly on COOL, Taylor says his research links the declines to the economic downturn and an ensuing drop in consumer demand.

Taylor released his study Thursday at a news conference in Washington arranged by the United States Cattlemen's Association, which supports the COOL legislation. A spokesman said USCA made a small contribution to help cover the cost of data acquisition but Auburn paid for most of the study's cost.

“Opponents have continued to state that COOL acts as a barrier to trade and adversely affects cattle imports and prices,” said USCA President Danni Beer. “This study confirms that COOL, a mechanism used to provide consumers more information about the source of their food, does not in fact affect the volume or price of cattle exports to the U.S."

USCA said that past studies used by COOL opponents ignored Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) Data as reported to the USDA. Taylor's study used MPR data as well as monthly trade statistics to clarify trading patterns -with results “reaffirming the legitimacy of COOL in today's international marketplace,” USCA said in a news release.

Following a complaint filed by Canada and Mexico, a World Trade Organization compliance panel found that the COOL meat rules are protectionist and violate global commerce regulations. The U.S. has appealed that ruling. Should the U.S. lose the appeal, Canada has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on a wide range of U.S. goods to make up for damages that it says amount to more than a billion dollars a year. COOL opponents say Congress should repeal the law before any tariffs are imposed.

Beer says she looks forward to working with Congress and the Obama administration in addressing Taylor's findings and applying his research to the debate on COOL.

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