WASHINGTON, July 20, 2015 – Stakeholders are voicing their opinions on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) as Senate agriculture leaders try to find a consensus on a path forward for the labeling requirements battered by an international trade dispute.
On Monday, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and 34 state pork producer organizations sent a letter to every member of the Senate calling for “swift repeal” of COOL laws mandating that meat labels disclose where the meat-producing animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.
The organizations believe the World Trade Organization, which has found the law to be protectionist, will likely approve retaliatory tariffs by Mexico and Canada, which claim their livestock industries have suffered under the law, if the measure isn’t repealed. The tariffs could top $3 billion annually.
“Make no mistake, the WTO will soon authorize retaliation – and the level will be very high,” the letter reads. “The retaliatory tariffs will stay in place until Canada and Mexico remove them. Canada and Mexico are insisting that they will not remove the tariffs until there is a full repeal of COOL.”
On the other hand, the National Farmers Union last week issued two separate press releases supporting COOL. One release thanked Senate agriculture leaders for “exploring the path forward for COOL” and another touted a study asserting that U.S. consumers prefer U.S. meat “when provided with a country-of-origin label.” NFU President Roger Johnson said COOL opponents are using “red herring arguments and scare tactics” to push for repeal.
“The talk of retaliation by those countries is not only grossly premature, but scaremongering at its finest,” he said. “In order for Canada or Mexico to retaliate against the U.S. should we wish to continue to exercise our sovereign right to label our food, they must first prove that our labeling law has harmed them economically.”
In June, the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 2393) to repeal mandatory COOL requirements for beef, pork, and poultry. In its letter, NPPC and its allied state organizations call for support of that legislation, while NFU and other COOL proponents want to try to work out a voluntary system that still allows for participation by those interested in the program.
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