State ag departments support COOL repeal

November 16, 2015

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has joined the many national organizations calling for the U.S. Senate to pass legislation repealing U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements.

NSADA’s action stems from a World Trade Organization (WTO) final decision this past spring, which found that U.S. COOL requirements unfairly favored domestic over imported livestock, inconsistent with U.S trade obligations — specifically with Canada and Mexico — and must alter regulations to conform with existing trade agreements.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed repeal legislation (H.R 2393) in response to the WTO ruling.

COOL requirements mandate that beef, pork, and chicken sold in the United States must be labeled to indicate where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.

A joint statement released on June 4 by Canada’s ministers of trade and agriculture along with Mexican trade officials requested a WTO Dispute Settlement Body to consider nearly $3 billion (USD) in retaliatory tariffs against the United States if COOL requirements were not completely repealed.

Nervous that this could negatively impact U.S. agricultural producers and the economy as a whole, NASDA and other agricultural groups have called upon the Senate to pass the House bill and avoid retaliatory measures from both countries.

However, many still see the benefit of origin labeling on products. Currently, the Senate is considering bill S. 1844, the “Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Trade Enhancement Act” that would offer voluntary labeling instead of the complete repeal the House bill seeks, while still aiming to skirt retaliatory measures from both countries.

Soon after its introduction into the Senate, Lyle Stewart, minister of agriculture in Saskatchewan, said, “This proposal is nothing more than COOL re-worded and will continue to result in discrimination toward Canadian cattle.” Gerry Ritz, Canada’s minister of agriculture, added that “The only way for the U.S. to avoid retaliation is for the U.S. Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and Senator (Pat) Roberts (R-Kan.) and put forward legislation (H.R 2393) that repeals COOL once and for all.”

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