A group of 32 U.S. Senators on Monday urged Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby, chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to ensure legislation that would eliminate Country of Origin Labeling is not included in a continuing resolution or omnibus spending bill to fund the government in fiscal year 2015.
The Senators say COOL, which requires the country or countries in which the originating animal was born, raised, and slaughtered to be listed on the package, provides consumers with reliable information about the origin of meat on store shelves.
The World Trade Organization has been considering the rule since 2008 as neighboring countries say it creates an unfair bias against imported goods. Ruled non-compliant in 2012 and revised in 2013, the rule has undergone a second review during which the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year determined COOL was a technical barrier to trade. No official announcement has been made by the WTO, however.
The Senators say that once the WTO process reaches a conclusion, the U.S. "has the tools" to ensure that labeling remains consistent with trade obligations, and the legislative process should not get in the way.
"Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected attempts to weaken or suspend COOL enforcement," the letter said, also citing exclusion of COOL legislation in the FY 2015 continuing resolution. "We strongly believe these were responsible decisions and ones that respect the right of the United States to defend the laws which Congress passes."
The Senators note also that efforts to undermine the COOL rule prior to the completion of the WTO process would "disadvantage American producers and roll-back the transparency within out meat markets."
Meanwhile, supporters of COOL suggest that if the rule is allowed to stand, it will continue to put a burden on the packing industry, and put pressure on trade relations with both Canada and Mexico.
News source: Sen. John Tester