Everyone wants COOL but not mandated
June 22, 2015
What's wrong with the current mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program? Why so much talk on such a simple topic?
First off, everyone wants to know where their food is produced. Does it need to be government mandated? I don't think so. As I walk by the meat counter, I see several labels explaining where the product was raised or its special attributes – every one of them from private industry doing a great service to the public and driving value for the producers who participate in those programs without being government mandated. Certified Angus Beef is one of the most recognized labels out there. What a great story about taking ownership of your product to the next level without Uncle Sam.
Do we really want to pay for the extra cost of COOL? Study after study shows the consumer doesn't and cost can make them reach for alternatives to beef. Why put the extra cost on the product with the chance of losing market share?
Another common argument is the big, bad meat packer pushing their agenda. I don't believe that. What do they have to gain or lose from COOL? Maybe more work and definitely a huge cost. Who pays the cost? Cattle producers, cattle feeders and consumers.
Are packers profit driven? I hope so, and so are we. They know more about marketing beef than we do so; let them do their job. As beef producers, we need them to get the beef from the cattle we raise to the plate.
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It's frustrating to me when people use food safety as a reason to support their argument for government-mandated COOL. COOL is a marketing program administered by the Ag Marketing Service. The Food and Drug Administration is the agency that ensures that food safety regulations are met and that all beef sold in the United States – domestic and foreign – is safe. The scare tactics that are used to build a political argument do nothing but steer consumers away from beef. No one wins when that happens.
The WTO has ruled four times against the United States' COOL program, which will open the door to punitive tariffs on not only U.S. beef, but other commodities grown in North Dakota and that help our farmers and ranchers pay their bills. It's over. If we don't deal with that reality, the consequences will be severe. Just three percent of the world's population lives in America. We are a global economy. Let's find a way to label U.S. beef through an industry-led approach that doesn't jeopardize the fabric of our economy.
While the industry argues amongst itself over this issue, regulations are being passed that threaten our ability to be the best food producers in the world – such as the Waters of the United States rule and the upcoming Veterinary Feed Directive, to name a few. We have to ask ourselves which is more important and needs the new discussion. Our livelihood depends on having the right discussion at the right time and not looking back.
New Rockford, ND