Court grants four groups’ right to defend COOL
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted R-CALF USA, Food & Water Watch, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and Western Organization of Resource Councils motion to intervene and defend Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) from a lawsuit filed by the international meatpacking industry.
“As the largest producer-only trade association representing the U.S. cattle industry, we will take this opportunity to aggressively defend COOL for U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “R-CALF USA fought for more than a decade to implement COOL with these very allies and together we are prepared to fight even harder to defend it.”
The requirement for mandatory COOL was first passed in the 2002 Farm Bill, but its implementation was repeatedly delayed by meatpacker pressure on Congress. A coalition of meatpackers (both domestic and international) and packer-producer trade associations sued USDA to block COOL in July 2013, nearly five years after COOL was included again in the 2008 Farm Bill, and additionally sought a preliminary injunction to halt COOL’s implementation immediately.
“With this decision, western independent cattle producers have an opportunity to defend a valuable program under attack by the NCBA and meatpackers,” said Wilma Tope, a rancher near Aladdin, Wyo., and WORC spokesperson. “Consumers have a right to know where the meat they buy and eat comes from.”
The meatpackers were dealt a significant setback in September when the District Court rejected their request for a preliminary injunction in a well-crafted ruling that provided a solid understanding of a complex regulatory issue. The meatpackers immediately appealed the ruling on the preliminary injunction, but the underlying challenge to the COOL rule is still pending before the lower court.
“Consumers, farmers and ranchers have tirelessly fought to implement COOL and the Court’s ruling allows them to join together again in defense of a commonsense rule that allows families to know where their food comes from,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.
A key goal of the meatpackers’ suit is to continue using misleading “commingled” labels stating “Product of Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.,” even on meat from animals that never stepped foot in either Canada or Mexico. The 2013 final rule required that COOL labels clearly delineate each production step where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered so consumers can make informed choices and American farmers can distinguish their products in the marketplace.
“We are pleased the Court has granted us permission to defend the opportunity for U.S. cattle producers to have their U.S. beef products properly labeled so they can be chosen by U.S. consumers,” said South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Executive Director Silvia Christen.
–S.D. Stockgrowers Assoc.