WASHINGTON, June 10, 2015 – More than a decade after it first became law, the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirement for meat appears headed for a resounding defeat in the House on Wednesday. COOL’s biggest House champion, Collin Peterson, conceded ahead of the vote that he was going to lose “quite a few” Democrats. He didn’t rule out the possibility that there could be as many as 290 or so votes for the bill (HR 2393) that would repeal the labeling requirement.

“I know when I’m beat,” Peterson said in an interview Tuesday night. “It’s just a question of how bad.”

COOL opponents were anticipating “good support” for the bill from members of the Congressional Black Congress (CBC), said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. If so, that could be a payoff for groups like the National Pork Producers Council, which has been cultivating support from urban lawmakers for agricultural policy. Several CBC members on the House Agriculture Committee were among the 13 Democrats on the panel who voted for repeal. Many of those same members received donations from the National Pork Producers Council’s political action committee (PAC). 

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, was hoping that a big vote for the bill would prod the Senate to take up Senate legislation. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., hasn’t said what he will do, but he has been working on finding a consensus in his committee, said panel member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Canada and Mexico last week asked the World Trade Organization for approval to impose $3 billion in retaliatory tariffs against U.S. products as a result of their successful challenge of the COOL regulations.

Peterson says a compromise could be in the works that would allow for voluntary labeling, an idea suggested by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., at a House Rules Committee meeting on the bill Tuesday.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, told the House Rules Committee Tuesday that the bill was “premature and unnecessary.” Rep Jim McGovern, D-Mass., suggested Congress “ought to be working toward a more thoughtful approach that balances consumers’ right to know with our trade obligations.”


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