Reaction Mixed on WTO's Country of Origin Labeling Ruling

Reaction Mixed on WTO's Country of Origin Labeling Ruling

Ag, livestock and interest groups offer perspective on the World Trade Organization's Country of Origin labeling ruling

Ag groups Monday offered mixed reaction on the World Trade Organization's ruling on Country of Origin Labeling which found the rule to be in violation of technical barriers to trade.

The rule requires meat package labeling to carry the country of where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

Groups in support of the rule said it offered additional information with which consumers could feel more comfortable in making purchasing decisions. Interests opposing the rule, however, argued it created additional difficulty for packers and fostered unfair consumer bias against products from other countries.

Ag, livestock and interest groups offer perspective on the World Trade Organization's Country of Origin labeling ruling

The Monday ruling on the revised COOL rule was consistent with a 2012 ruling on COOL that also said it violated technical barriers to trade. Stakeholders now have 60 days to appeal the ruling.

Here's where agriculture's interests stand:

Bob McCan, President, National Cattlemen's Beef Association: "Our producers have already suffered discounts and faced the closure of a number of feedlots and packing plants due to the effects of this short-sighted regulation. COOL is a failed program that will soon cost not only the beef industry, but the entire U.S. economy, with no corresponding benefit to consumers or producers."

Ray Gaesser, President, American Soybean Association: "Mandatory country of origin labeling in its current state is an unworkable burden on soybean farmers’ largest customers—the animal agriculture industry. What’s worse is that the fallout from this rule following the finding of noncompliance by WTO will include a system of retaliatory tariffs by Canada and Mexico that will, at the very least, harm our partners in the animal agriculture industry."

Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau: "Americans prefer to buy food products that they know were grown and raised by America’s farmers and ranchers, and AFBF supports a country-of-origin labeling program that conforms to appropriate parameters and meets WTO requirements. Farm Bureau will carefully review the decision and then determine further recommended actions."

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Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union: "American consumers want to know where their food comes from, and America’s family farmers and ranchers are proud to provide that information. Nothing about today’s ruling changes that rudimentary fact. Under the guidance of USDA, any changes to COOL to ensure full compliance with today’s decision should be able to be made administratively, while maintaining the integrity of COOL labels."

Howard Hill, President, National Pork Producers Council: " The United States must avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico. Retaliatory tariffs on pork would be financially devastating to U.S. pork producers."

Danni Beer, President, U.S. Cattlemen's Association: “There may still be many months before the WTO process reaches a final result. Today’s ruling provides no basis for false alarms about repealing the COOL statute itself.  Congress should continue to resist such premature and unfounded calls to weaken a law that enjoys such strong support from America’s consumers, ranchers, and producers."

American Meat Institute/North American Meat Association: "The WTO decision upholding Canada’s and Mexico’s challenge to the U.S. COOL rule comes as no surprise. USDA’s mandatory COOL rule is not only onerous and burdensome on livestock producers and meat packers and processors, it does not bring the U.S. into compliance with its WTO obligations."

Andrew Harig, Director of Government Relations, Food Marketing Institute: "The WTO decision makes it clear that there are problems with the law that only Congress can address. Rather than continuing to ‘run out the clock’ on the WTO process, we urge Congress to act as expeditiously as possible to bring the law into compliance with our trade commitments and put an end to the threat of tariffs by Canada and Mexico on U.S. exports."

View the WTO COOL compliance panel report here.

Catch up on the WTO/COOL issue:
Country of Origin Labeling Faces Questions From Many Sides
Canada Issues Formal COOL Challenge
Meat Interests Take USDA To Court Over COOL Rule
Canada Poised To Retaliate on COOL Ruling
USDA Retains Country of Origin Labeling Requirement
WTO COOL Review Could Be Telling for Trade
Proposed COOL Changes Met With Mixed Reaction
Groups Outline Options for COOL Compliance
COOL Ruled Non-Compliant With WTO Agreement

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