COOL news due any day now
By Lisa M. Keefe on 3/21/2014
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Lawyers for the organizations that filed a lawsuit against current country-of-origin labeling rules say a decision is due any day on their quest to prevent the USDA from enforcing those rules, according to John Dillard, an attorney with Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz, which represents the North American Meat Association.
Dillard updated NAMA members at their management conference and annual meeting, convening here this week.
NAMA and the other industry organizations that joined in the lawsuit, including the American Meat Institute, presented their arguments to the appellate court judges in January. Based on past experience, Dillard said, the judges for this court hand down their decisions a little more than two months after arguments are presented — which means he believes they could make their decision at any time.
A decision in the plaintiffs’ favor would halt the enforcement of the COOL rules, as they were handed down in May 2013, while the legal question of whether the rules are even constitutional is hashed out in another court.
An appellate court decision is the only major event in the ongoing COOL saga that is expected anytime soon, Dillard noted. Canada and Mexico’s challenge to the rules before the World Trade Organization is expected to get a ruling in June, although the losing side likely will appeal again, so realistically no concrete developments will be forthcoming from the WTO before 2015.
Dillard noted that, despite the failure of the U.S. Congress to address the COOL controversy in the most recent farm bill, as had been hoped, a legislative fix is still on the horizon. Specifically, Canada and Mexico have threatened retaliatory tariffs targeting those industries important to Congress’s ag leadership. If Canada and Mexico win their challenge before the WTO, and those tariffs move closer to reality, then it’s likely that Congress will be prompted to move on the COOL issue — noting, though, that that won’t happen for at least another 18 months or so.
Such a new law “likely would pass during a lame duck session of Congress,” Dillard said. “Stay optimistic. We will eventually find a solution.”