House Ag subcommittee holds COOL hearing |

House Ag subcommittee holds COOL hearing

Most witnesses at a House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee hearing Wednesday said the U.S. law requiring country-of-origin labeling for red meat risks trade retaliation, but the National Farmers Union urged the committee to consider a study it commissioned that says Canada has not experienced as much economic damage as previous studies have shown.

The World Trade Organization is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether COOL violates U.S. international trade obligations.

Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., the subcommittee chairman, started the hearing by stating, “In 2002, the Congress of the United States adopted a discriminatory country- of-origin labeling requirement for meat products.”

“As a staff member for a Senate Ag Committee member during the 2002 farm bill conference, I can attest to the fact that those folks who opposed this mandate warned that the policy might not comply with our trade commitments and would likely not withstand a challenge in the WTO,” Rouzer said.

“Those concerns have proven to be well-founded considering the United States COOL program for beef and pork was almost immediately challenged by Canada and Mexico, and has lost at every level in the WTO thus far.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, added, “Meat industries knew from the start that this policy would not hold up in the WTO, but Congress didn’t listen, and we have seen major costs with no benefits. COOL has been a failed experiment from the start, and now the economic damages we could face will be felt by all Americans, not just the agriculture industry.”

A series of agriculture and business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers said they expect the WTO to rule against the program and that Congress should make plans to repeal or rewrite the law.

But National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said a recent study done on COOL by Robert Taylor, a professor at Auburn University, refute Canadian claims of economic damage to their beef exports.

In a written statement the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association joined Farmers Union in urging the committee to wait for the WTO ruling before taking any action.

–The Hagstrom Report