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Sen. Debbie Stabenow has proposed a bill that would makecountry of origin labeling (COOL) for pork and beef voluntary instead of
The legislation proposed by the Michigan Democrat and member
of the Senate agriculture committee, is seen as an alternative to repealing
COOL. The U.S. House of Representatives on June 10 approved a bill that if
signed into law, would repeal U.S. COOL laws.
Congress is trying to reach a solution to repealing the
current COOL laws after the World Trade Organization (WTO) on May 18 ruled the
laws unfair, siding with Mexico and Canada, who have challenged the laws saying
they discriminate against Canadian and Mexican cattle and hogs.
Canada and Mexico have both filed with the WTO to seek more
than $3 billion in retaliation. The U.S. subsequently asked the WTO for
arbitration over the amount of damages Canada and Mexico claims have been
caused by COOL.
According to anAgri-Pulse report, Stabenow stated: “COOL serves an important role for
consumers and industry. However, the WTO has been clear that we must find a
solution that is consistent with our international trade obligations. This
proposal offers a viable alternative and I look forward to discussing it at our
hearing and with my colleagues in the Senate as we work to come to agreement on
a bipartisan solution.”
Stabenow is a
former Senate agriculture committee chairperson. Her successor as committee chair,
Sen. Pat Roberts, has called for the Senate to follow the House’s lead and
repeal the COOL laws.
Conaway, chairman of the House agriculture committee, stated that he thinks
Stabenow’s bill is a bad idea.
“Any conversation about a voluntary program must be
preceded by a full repeal of COOL, as we have an obligation to our trading
partners to come into compliance,” Conaway said. “ These labeling requirements
are costly for producers, burdensome for the entire supply chain, and provide
no quantifiable benefits for consumers. By leaving in place a host of federally
mandated requirements, Sen. Stabenow’s bill still creates unnecessary
compliance costs and prolongs this failed experiment. After four World Trade
Organization rulings against the U.S. for mandatory COOL, it is time to abandon
this program and ensure certainty in the marketplace.”
The Senate is scheduled to hold a hearing on COOL on June