WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2014 – R-CALF USA and 97 other groups representing cattle, farm, manufacturer, consumer and other rural interests sent a letter today to members of the farm bill conference committee urging them not to make any changes to the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law.
The groups said the letter was sent following reports last week that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) was lobbying the conferees to weaken the COOL law. “The widespread reports circulating on Capitol Hill indicated that the USTR was capitulating to the pressures by COOL opponents, primarily the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and their transnational meatpacker allies, to weaken, if not eliminate COOL,” said Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA chief executive officer.
Bullard said the reports indicated that USTR was pressuring conferees to replace current COOL requirements with either a “Product of North America” label for meat from animals imported into the United States, or a “Product of USA” label for meat from animals exclusively produced in the United States.
“They want to use the ‘Product of North America’ on all meat produced in U.S. slaughtering plants so consumers will not know which products were derived from USA cattle and which were derived from imported cattle,” Bullard said.
The letter said consumers and farmers overwhelmingly support the 2013 COOL rules that require retailers to inform consumers as to where the animal from which the meat was derived was born, raised, and slaughtered.
Opponents, such as NCBA, American Meat Institute, and North American Meat Association, have argued that costs associated with the more detailed labeling would cause their members irreparable monetary harm. Further, they have argued that the COOL rules will damage U.S. trade relations with Canada and Mexico, which are contesting the labeling law, saying it provides an unfair advantage to U.S. products.
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