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Meat Industry Groups Sue Over Country-of-Origin Labeling

July 9, 2013

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. meat industry groups, joined by Canadian counterparts, sued the Agriculture Department seeking to block rules requiring meat producers to increase the amount of information about countries of origin on their products.

Regulations adopted in May require producers to specify where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Retail packages can’t mix muscle cuts from different countries under a general label, the groups said yesterday in a federal court complaint in Washington.

"Imported livestock are a critical supply for American processing plants, particularly those near the Canadian and Mexican borders," lawyers for groups including the American Meat Institute and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said in the complaint. "Labels will require the transmission of extensive detail and paperwork," and "defendants concede that there is no health or safety reason" not to commingle meats, they said.

Meat producers asked for a ruling that the new regulations are unconstitutional, an order to stop their enforcement, and an award of legal fees.

The original rules came into effect in 2009 in response to the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, in a Canadian animal in 2003. Canada and Mexico told the World Trade Organization that the rules discriminated against their products.

 

Increased Losses

 

The Canadian livestock industry has lost an estimated $C650 million ($617 million) annually since 2009, and losses will increase if the revised rules come into full effect, Travis Toews, a past-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said in a telephone interview. The vast majority of U.S. meat- packers who process Canadian cattle will probably stop because the "draconian" regulations that ban comingling will make it too onerous to segregate animals in the supply chain, he said.

"It takes county-of-origin labeling and puts it on steroids, so to speak," Toews said of the revised rules. "It’s going to be much tougher."

The industry groups allege the revised rules violate the U.S. Constitution by compelling speech "in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products" that will confuse consumers, raise prices and put some producers out of business, according to a meat institute press release.

The "USDA remains confident that these changes will improve the overall operation of the program," spokeswoman Michelle Saghafi said in an e-mail. The changes will bring requirements "into compliance with U.S. international trade obligations."

 

Agriculture Minister

 

The lawsuit means the U.S. will be more likely to address the dispute, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a telephone interview.

The producers contend that new labeling equipment alone might cost the industry more than $192 million.

The Canadian government released a list of products imported from the U.S that may be targeted in retaliation for the label rules in June, including corn, cheese and beef.

"This is not a trade war, this is American industry suing their administration for putting in place rules and a description of the rule that is counter to common sense and counter to business being done," Ritz said. "We welcome this next shot across the bow."

The case is American Meat Institute v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 13-cv-01033, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

 

--With assistance from Tom Schoenberg in Washington. Editors: Millie Munshi, Michael Hytha

 

To contact the reporters on this story: Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware at pmilford@bloomberg.net; Jen Skerritt in Winnipeg at jskerritt1@bloomberg.net

 

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net; Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net

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RELATED TOPICS: Policy, Livestock, USDA, Cattle

 
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COMMENTS (2 Comments)

Surviving I think - Olivet , MI
I find this article interesting, now we not only have the other countries that benifit from our corporate greed but our own countries corporations sueing also. Makes me wonder just who's side the corps are on, never mind, I already know, their own. With the might cost they say, and scare words they use does nothing to bolster our own withering rural livestock industry, but tries to use the smoke screens of scare and dare to bolster their own profits only. Just think, if we did have proper labeling and the American people did choose to support the neighbors that they know are the best animal people in the world instead of other people that don't have the laws and such to have that safe food. Just imagine what that might do to our own industry. Just imagine if they had to give up some of their profits because thats what the people really want. JUST IMAGINE
10:13 PM Jul 12th
 
Tom3 - TN
Since the industry contends that it will be 192 million in extra costs, we know the costs of MAKING THEM FOLLOW THE LAW will cost about as much since they don't want to follow the law. I say we impose an extra 192 million per year on the meat packers to pay for these costs.

It does make you wonder if their labeling of beef of the grade like Choice is just as costly. Perhaps we should have them pay an additional 192 million per year so the taxpayers don't have to pay for these costs either.

It is time to stop the corporate welfare. Their own figures justify these additional taxes on them.

As far as Canada or other nations that want to sell into the U.S. markets, if they don't want to label it, take it elsewhere to sell.

Perhaps we should start this process by closing the border again while they push in these areas. It would increase domestic prices of beef for domestic producers and stop the crybabies who want U.S. markets but don't want to follow laws passed by Congress and signed into law.

Perhaps changing the management and investors at the top of the meat packer pyramid is the best answer. Courts have been unwilling to enforce the laws of the land against meat packers in any meaningful way. If they had, U.S. producers would probably be at the top of the meat mafia and we wouldn't need to worry about them selling non COOL meat. One problem begets another.
2:27 PM Jul 10th
 



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