Dear Senator Feinstein,
Thank you for your prompt and detailed response to my concern about the importance of keeping COOL. As an educator, citizen, mother, grandmother, Master Gardener, academic faculty member I strongly disagree with your justification for eliminating this important tool for transparency for American consumers.
Surely there are other ways that Canada and Mexico can address any concerns about meat imports from their countries. I’d be amazed to hear that there are any concerns with imports from Canada as generally they are more progressive even than the US. As for Mexico, I can point to a personal experience which underlines why it’s important for consumers to know where their meat originates.
Some years ago a friend gave me a Meyer lemon tree which she had ordered from a nursery in Texas. For a couple of years, we delighted in the fragrance of the blossoms as well as the few lemons which were produced from this tree which lived in a sunroom off the kitchen. Returning home one day, I encountered an inspector from USDA who was at our home to SEIZE my Meyer lemon tree. Needless to say I was astonished but as a Master Gardener, also interested. It turned out that the nursery in Texas had illegally purchased the trees from another nursery in Florida which was in an area where citrus greening disease is active and was quaranteened from selling such stock outside the area. Knowing how devastating this disease is for the citrus industry, I was happy to comply. Also curious I asked the very pleasant gentleman if this was what he did full time. He replied that the bulk of his time was seeking out illegal meat imports from Mexico, most often found in small ethnic groceries where especially the processed meats were often contaminated, frequently with heavy metals.
It seems to me that American’s right to know and transparency in the food supply trumps any potential tariff wars between the countries which could surely be addressed in other ways. I look to my elected officials to protect and benefit ALL Americans and not just a single industry. NOTE that as the mother of a USDA certified USDA Marin County farmer, I could not be more supportive of our healthy agroecology movement which is growing rapidly. I just ask that you consider ALL Americans in your decisions.
Many thanks for your attention to my concerns.
Judith Rice-Jones, M.A., M.L.I.S.
"Creating peace one garden at a time." Tammi Hartung
Thank you contacting me regarding Country of Origin Labeling for food products. I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
I understand you support the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program and oppose legislative efforts that would change it. I have been a long-time supporter of consumers’ right to know important information about the products that they buy. The COOL program, which was created in the 2002 Farm Bill (Public Law 107-171), requires retailers to include country of origin labels on fresh produce, red meats, poultry, pork, peanuts, and seafood.
Canada and Mexico allege that COOL requirements for beef and pork products unfairly discriminate against Canadian and Mexican livestock producers. In response, they have threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs against U.S. products, including a range of commodities produced in California. If implemented, these tariffs could cost the United States $2 billion dollars annually. While it is not known how much the tariffs would cost California, they may affect approximately $1.6 billion of exports from the state annually. I am deeply concerned about the threat of retaliatory tariffs, particularly since California’s agriculture industry is already suffering from the ongoing catastrophic drought.
In 2008, Canada and Mexico challenged the COOL program before the World Trade Organization (WTO), asserting it is not consistent with the United States’ trade obligations. On October 20, 2014, the WTO found that the United States’ COOL regulations for meat and poultry products were noncompliant with international trade law because they unfairly discriminate against Canadian and Mexican livestock producers. The United States filed an appeal but on May 18, 2015, the WTO issued a final ruling in favor of Canada and Mexico.
While I continue to believe that consumers deserve to know where the food they buy comes from, we need to ensure this information is provided in a way that does not destabilize California exports. My first priority is to avoid retaliatory tariffs that will hurt California’s economy, farmers, and businesses, and I have directed my staff to work with the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee and the Administration to quickly find a legislative solution which must include repealing mandatory COOL for beef and pork as currently enacted. I am also committed to exploring other options to inform consumers such as a voluntary USDA certified label.
You may also be interested to know that beyond COOL, there are federal food safety programs, such as those operated by the Food Safety Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration, in place to ensure any food imported into the United States is safe and accurately labeled. I will continue to fight to provide robust funding for these programs during the appropriations process in order to ensure that imported foods are safe.
Please know that I will keep your support for Country of Origin Labeling in mind should the Senate consider further legislation regarding this issue.
Again, thank you for writing. I hope you will continue to write to me on matters of importance to you. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841, or online at http://feinstein.senate.gov. Best regards.
United States Senator
Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the nation are available at my website, feinstein.senate.gov. And please visit my YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for more ways to communicate with me.