The National Farmers Union Friday announced that it intends to intervene in the lawsuit filed July 10 against the USDA seeking to nullify the USDA's May 23 final rule regarding Country of Origin Labeling.
If granted an intervention, NFU, along with partnering organizations – U.S. Cattlemen's Association, Consumer Federation of America and American Sheep Industry Association – intend to defend the COOL regulation, which requires muscle cuts to be labeled based on where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
Nine groups filed the original lawsuit, arguing that COOL violates World Trade Organization obligations by creating consumer bias against imported goods.
Specifically, they alleged that the COOL rule: 1) violates the United States Constitution by compelling speech in the form of detailed labeling on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest; 2) exceeds the scope of the statutory mandate, because the statute does not permit the kind of labeling requirements the final rule puts in place; and 3) imposes burdens on the meat industry with little to no benefit.
Parties involved in the original lawsuit include the American Meat Institute, the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, and Southwest Meat Association.
The group also filed for a temporary injunction on July 26, arguing that enforcement of the rule would cause irreparable harm to the industry and have severe economic impacts that are not in the public interest.
While the groups are concerned about potential trade disruptions and added processing costs, NFU and its partnering organizations, however, maintain that COOL is a benefit to U.S. farmers and consumers.
They point to a Consumer Federation of America study that found 90% of adult Americans favored requiring food sellers to indicate on the package label the country of origin of fresh meat they sell.
"There is no denying that U.S. consumers want to know where their food comes from," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "That is why it is great to have a united front of consumers and producers in this alliance in support of COOL."
The Court has scheduled a hearing on the preliminary injunction motion for Aug. 27.
For a complete background on the issue, visit the stories below:
COOL Rule Opponents Seek Court Injunction
Meat Interests Take USDA To Court Over COOL Rule
Canada Poised To Retaliate on COOL Ruling
USDA Retains Country of Origin Labeling Requirement
Proposed COOL Changes Met With Mixed Reaction
COOL Ruled Non-Compliant With WTO Agreement