Cattle industry reacts to WTO decision on country of origin labeling

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.


WASHINGTON, May 26, 2011 - U.S. cattle industry groups are reporting that the World Trade Organization's (WTO) issued a preliminary ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) that strikes down the United States' law.

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The 2008 Farm Bill imposed mandatory COOL for beef and other meats. Canada and Mexico initiated the WTO case six months after the act was passed.


On Friday, May 20, 2011, WTO released its preliminary ruling that determined U.S. COOL requirements violate provisions of WTO's agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). “The WTO ruled U.S. COOL requirements do not fulfill the stated U.S. objective of helping inform consumers of the origin of meat and, consequently, violate the TBT agreement,” NCBA said in a release.


According to NCBA President Bill Donald, COOL was a bad idea from the beginning and the preliminary WTO ruling on the original complaint filed by Canada and Mexico is proof.

“This ruling is unfortunate for the U.S. government but the consequences of a poor decision have been revealed. We fully support WTO's preliminary ruling,” said Donald. “It is also very important to note that this ruling is very much preliminary and all of the details are not yet known.”


However, R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) expressed disappointment with the decision.


“While we are tremendously disappointed in the decision, we believe it was necessary to prove to the American people just how dangerous it is for the United States to acquiesce to international tribunals such as the WTO,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard in a statement. “U.S. citizens exercised their constitutional right to self-governance by urging Congress to pass a law that informs them of where their food is produced. Now we have an un-elected, foreign tribunal that is attempting to strike down our constitutionally passed law.


“The COOL law is widely supported by farmers, ranchers and consumers as an important consumers' right-to-know law,” said R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz. “COOL enables consumers to exercise choice in the marketplace by giving shoppers the information they need to choose from which country they want their food produced.



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