U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has introduced legislation that would repeal U.S. country of origin labeling requirements concerning beef, pork and poultry meat.
The U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) law requires meat to be labeled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and harvested. It also applies to fish, shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and certain nuts.
However, the World Trade Organization in May rejected an appeal by the United States of the international trade body’s October 2014 ruling that the COOL provisions on beef and pork discriminate against Canadian and Mexican animals that are sent to the United States to be fed out and processed. The WTO decision will allow punitive tariffs to be put on U.S. goods going into Canada and Mexico, which are asking for a combined $3.1 billion in retaliation. A WTO arbitrator now is determining the level of retaliation.
The U.S. House of Representatives in June approved a bill that would repeal COOL. The measure passed by a 300-131 vote.
Another bill was proposed by former Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow. The Stabenow bill would have made COOL voluntary but not mandatory. Leaders from both Canada and Mexico stated that voluntary COOL was not a suitable solution.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), which has been vocal about its support to end COOL, praised the legislation proposed by Roberts, R-Kansas, and said the proposal by Stabenow, D-Michigan, falls short.
“We’re grateful that Chairman Roberts recognizes that repeal of COOL meat labeling is the only move left, with retaliation from Canada and Mexico imminent,” said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage. “The United States had its day in court, and it lost. We’re in the sentencing phase now, and without repeal, a sentence of up to $3 billion soon will be imposed on our exports.”
“While we appreciate Sen. Stabenow’s efforts, we can’t support her bill because it would continue key features of a labeling regime that’s already been found to violate WTO rules. More importantly, it doesn’t satisfy Canada and Mexico, so it won’t stop retaliation, and we can’t afford to have our products restricted, through tariffs, to two of our top three markets. We don’t like it, Congress doesn’t like it, but the reality is that after four losses at the WTO, Canada and Mexico hold the cards.”
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) also favors the Roberts proposal.“We can’t afford to waste precious time debating proposals other than full and simple repeal. Anything else jeopardizes important segments of the U.S. economy and ultimately our consumers,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter.