Letter to the editor: Save COOL
July 20, 2015
My purpose with this letter is to alert you of a travesty taking place. As of this writing, the law referred to as COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) is still in effect, but a couple of weeks ago, the US House of Representatives voted to remove it. It will be coming up for a vote in the Senate soon. This law's existence is because of a hard fought battle by grass roots ranchers and consumers to allow the public to differenciate meat of livestock born, raised, processed and sold in the US from imported meat. This law was passed in the 2004 Farm Bill, but was not implemented until 2008. The packers quickly found a way to co-mingle product and mis-lable it. This was stopped ,finally. Then the WTO (World Trade Organization) got involved, as Canada and Mexico claimed the law was causing US beef to have an unfair advantage in the marketplace. The WTO panel of three judges, one being a Mexican (conflict of interest) ruled against the US. What they wanted was implemented. It was again brought before WTO, and they ruled against it. It was contested in court in the US and upheld there. Canada and Mexico are threatening trade sanctions, claiming they are being harmed financially, which the evidence shows, is not the case. Canada has a form of the COOL law in it's own country. Canada has had another case of BSE in 2015 and Mexico is known to have TB. The USDA has recently implemented rules allowing imports of fresh and frozen beef products from Argentina and Brazil, two countries known to have Hoof and Mouth Disease. This is a highly contagious disease that could quickly contaminate the US cattle herd, which has been free of this disease since 1929, because of careful import controls. Not so today! Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was quoted as stating he wanted to reduce the production/price of US beef. Beef production has been at the lowest level since the 1950's, so prices have been at an all time high. When ranch families have a positive cash flow, they generally spend it locally, replacing equipment, vehicles, buildings, etc. Why would USDA want to harm the local economy? The reason is, to control the entire beef production industry, further concentrating our food supply. This has already happened in the pork and poultry industry. The more concentrated our food supply, the more likely a major contamination will occur, due to ecoli, salmonella, or terrorism. Do you want our food supply at risk in this way? Do you care where your meat comes from, how the animals are raised and fed? By flooding the market with cheap, imported beef, prices are driven down. When ranch people can't make ends meet, many will go out of business, thus reducing production permanently. Do you want to be dependent on imported food , from sources that do not have the regulations and safeguards that we have? If COOL is eliminated, (or becomes voluntary, as proposed) the packers can import beef and sell it to you, as US beef, because it has been processed here, and you will be non-the-wiser! US beef sells on the open market at a higher price than that of other countries, because it is a superior product. We have the safest, cleanest, purest product available. Should we not work together to keep it that way, and give all of us a choice in what we purchase? Demand that Congress keep COOL in place, and that our Sec of Ag defend the American consumer and rancher , instead the multi-national corporations. Please contact your US Senators and demand they vote against the bill to eliminate COOL, and that the USDA and it's Sec. be stopped from putting the livestock industry and all of us at risk!
Carol L Hendrickson
Hermosa, SD 57744