U.S. Cattlemen’s Association opposes congressional intervention in COOL
The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) joined the National Farmers Union (NFU), the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) in a joint letter sent to House and Senate Farm Bill conferees the week of Oct. 28, voicing strong support for U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) and opposing any attempt to make modifications through the farm bill to the underlying COOL law or to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations which became final just a few months ago.
COOL opponents recently sent a letter to House and Senate Farm Bill conferees urging them to utilize COOL placeholder language in the House version of the farm bill as a mechanism to drastically change the law. The letter specifically references the need to insert language in the farm bill that will halt all current action regarding the program and negate the actions currently underway at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“USCA and its allies oppose any efforts to derail COOL,” state Jon Wooster, USCA President. “The statutory process for addressing the prior WTO Appellate Body decision was followed by USDA, including consultations with Congress. The revised regulation addressed the core issues raised by the WTO decision following additional extensive comments by parties, including thousands of parties supporting the improved information that the revised regulations require. Certain groups have challenged the regulations in court and, to date, have not established any right to a delay in the implementation of the regulation.”
Wooster continued, “A COOL compliance review is currently underway at the WTO so our trading partners will be able to have an independent body evaluate the extent of compliance by the revised regulations. USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative have indicated that the revised regulations bring the U.S. into compliance with our trade obligations. It is clearly the wrong approach for those who are dissatisfied with the U.S. law to seek a reversal through the farm bill when everyone, including the WTO, understands that there are important purposes served by providing more information to consumers. Many domestic producers and U.S. consumers generally want more information provided about where their food is from. Reducing consumer confusion as to the origin of product is an important objective and one which has worked well for most products subject to COOL. The revised regulations offer the same opportunity to the meat sector. The correct approach is to permit the Administration to proceed as it has, in compliance with existing U.S. law and defending at the WTO that which was adopted after extensive consideration by USDA.”
USCA will continue to monitor conference committee discussions and will provide information as the process unfolds.