U.S. House of Rep. Repeals Mandatory COOL
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to repeal the country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef, pork, chicken, ground beef and ground pork. The vote to repeal COOL was conducted under a special resolution passed by the GOP majority on largely a party-line vote (244 to 187) that limited the entire congressional debate to only one-hour and prohibted lawmakers from making any amendments to the measure.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts told a senate committee yesterday that Congress must act quickly in repealing COOL or face dire retaliation. Roberts chaired a hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee on threats of trade retaliation by Canada and Mexico if the United States doesn’t put an end to mandatory country-of-origin labeling.
This move, however, does not come without much opposition from mandatory COOL supporters.
“After fighting for over 15 years to first win and then defend our mandatory COOL law, our members are not about to throw in the towel while our U.S. Trade Representative is still fighting to defend our sovereign right to maintain mandatory COOL in the current arbitration proceeding now underway at the WTO (World Trade Organization),” says R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Our members flatly oppose this voluntary proposal and we reject the notion that a voluntary program would somehow be better than no COOL at all.”
POSSIBLE SANCTIONS ON AMERICAN PRODUCTS BY MEXICO AND CANADA
Beginning in 2002, retailers have been required by law to provide labels detailing where some fresh meat products were raised, slaughtered and processed. Since 2009, Canada and Mexico have challenged the law before the WTO, arguing it discriminates against Canadian and Mexican products.
In May, the WTO sided with the United States’ neighbors, rejecting a U.S. appeal and granting Canada and Mexico permission to invoke billions of dollars in tariffs on the U.S. if it fails to repeal COOL.
Roberts said more than $3.2 billion in sanctions on American products are possible if mandatory COOL isn’t repealed. While Mexico hasn’t yet finalized a list of products to sanction, Canada has said it will target beef, pork, wine, jewelry, mattresses and more for retaliation.
“United States citizens deserve to know which meat is domestic and which is foreign and Congress should be working to defend such a fundamental right to know, not falling all over itself in an effort to figure out how to appease Canada and Mexico’s desire to sneak their products into our markets without a label,” says Bill Bullard.
Supporters of COOL include the National Farmers Union, United States Cattlemen’s Association, American Sheep Industry Association and Consumer Federation of America.