It has been, and continues to be, my privilege to serve as the region six director for the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) representing cattle producers in Montana and Idaho. As you know, America’s country of origin labeling law (COOL) was challenged by Canada and Mexico at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and as a result of the dispute settlement panel’s ruling and further negotiations between the U.S. and Canada, we now have until May 23, 2013, to bring certain provisions of COOL into compliance. Make no mistake, the dispute settlement panel’s ruling affirmed the right of the U.S. to label product and said the law has a “legitimate objective” in providing origin information to consumers. The panel’s findings, however, indicate that certain ways by which the law is implemented must be adjusted so they do not present a barrier to trade. The remedies should not be difficult and can be accomplished through some simple changes in the implementation rules. Unfortunately, there are groups and exporting countries who are trying to influence public opinion by saying the rule was “poorly written” and that this ruling signals the “demise of COOL.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, what they’re after is access to the “A” label, which is reserved exclusively for beef derived from cattle born, raised and processed in the U.S. These same groups and exporters advocate a “North American” label, which will be a substantial step towards commoditization of U.S. beef and it will inhibit our right to differentiate our product in retail cases.
As a USCA member and director, I have been regularly briefed on the matter as it has evolved and I am confident that USCA is working diligently to see the original intent of COOL preserved. Leo McDonnell, who is also a USCA director, has worked tirelessly to see COOL passed and implemented and to see it through this WTO challenge. Leo has fronted all of the legal expenses necessary to ensure that ranchers’ interests have been well represented in this WTO process through a top-notch law firm in Washington, D.C. that specializes in international trade issues. It’s time for us to step up as well.
As cattle producers, we have a responsibility to become engaged and I recommend that you take two steps to do so. First, please help replenish Leo’s COOL Legal Fund by sending your contribution to Leo McDonnell COOL Defense Fund, P.O. Box 1112 Columbus, MT 59019. Second, join the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. A cattle producer’s membership in USCA is available for $100 annually and in this group only cattle producers vote on policy. Send your membership check to USCA P.O. Box 109 Winnett, MT 59087. Businesses can support USCA by joining at a rate of $100 per year and college students or junior memberships are available for $25 per year.
There is formidable strength in numbers and as the USCA winter membership drives gets underway, I can tell you with confidence that your investment in a USCA membership will be money well spent. This is a no-frills outfit that doesn’t pay bloated salaries or rent extravagant office space. We are, however, working day in and day out on many fronts to represent the cow-calf producers’ interests including not only COOL, but also on beef checkoff reform, marketing and environmental regulations, the death tax and the farm bill, animal identification, animal health and many other issues. If you’d like to see more about what USCA is doing and has accomplished, go to www.uscattlemen.org. USCA has become a well-respected voice on Capitol Hill with unprecedented access, and has gained a reputation as a reasoned, solution-oriented organization. I urge you to join USCA and stand with us as we move forward to secure a future for our industry.
Mary Ann Murray,
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