The first steps to repealing America’s country of origin labeling (COOL) laws were taken Wednesday as the House Agriculture Committee voted 38-6 in favor of a bill that would eliminate labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken.
The bill, introduced by Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Tex., and joined by 68 Democrats and Republicans, was a swift response to Monday’s ruling by the World Trade Organization that America’s mandatory COOL laws violated international regulations.
“This bill is a targeted response that will remove uncertainty and restore stability for the United States by bringing us back into compliance,” Chairman Conaway said. “We must do all we can to avoid retaliation by Canada and Mexico, and this bill accomplishes that through full repeal of labeling requirements for beef, pork, and chicken.”
The ruling by the WTO – the fourth against COOL – opened the door for Canada and Mexico to seek retaliatory tariffs, a measure both countries said they would pursue.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President and Chugwater, Wyoming, cattleman Philip Ellis encouraged Congress to pass Conaway’s bill soon.
“The time to negotiate and consider alternatives is long past; COOL has been around in one form or another for over a decade without benefit, and now is time to act to repeal this broken legislation,” Ellis said.
However, the National Farmers Union and the rancher group R-CALF USA are steadfast supporters of COOL.
“Our courts have found that COOL benefits consumers and that there is nothing wrong with our COOL law,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “The problem is with the WTO, and Congress should be introducing legislation to fix the WTO, not strip consumers of their right to know where their food is produced.”
The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council are concerned American dairy products could face stiffer tariffs – and ultimately reach fewer foreign customers – unless COOL is repealed.
“America’s dairy farmers should not suffer collateral damage as a consequence of our COOL policy,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO. “The U.S. government needs to rectify this situation before we lose any export customers.”