NOBULL: Meat industry’s request for preliminary injunction on COOL denied

Meat industry’s request for preliminary injunction on COOL denied

By Tom Johnston on 9/11/2013

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a meat industry coalition’s request for a preliminary injunction on USDA’s revised mandatory country-of-origin labeling because it didn’t meet the standard for such relief, according to court documents filed today.

The American Meat Institute, the North American Meat Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, among other industry groups, filed a lawsuit against USDA on July 8. They sought a preliminary injunction to block the new COOL rule released May 23 from being implemented and enforced until the conclusion of the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs argued, among several counts, that the new rule would cause their constituents irreparable harm. Within that argument they maintain that meat industry members at all stages of the production process will face “crippling” financial and operational burdens as a result of the rule. One such burden, they contend, is the new rule’s ban on commingling — processing multiple animals with varying countries of origin together during a single production day — that they argue will force them to build new facilities for handling and storing segregated animals.

The court opined, however, that the plaintiffs’ argument on that matter, for example, amounted to speculation about the potential impacts and costs of the rule. “Indeed, none of the Plaintiffs’ declarations adequately alleges and substantiates the kind of immediate and irreparable monetary injury that is required to sustain Plaintiffs’ assertions regarding the Final Rule’s dire financial effects or the lack of recoverability of the added expenditures,” the opinion states.

In response to the court’s ruling, the North American Meat Association and American Meat Institute said the plaintiffs’ would appeal.

“This decision will have real consequences and, at a time of rising meat prices and record low herd size, they will be damaging,” NAMA CEO Barry Carpenter said. “In the absence of preliminary relief, NAMA members and the industry at large will suffer irreparable harm.”

In October 2009, Canada (later joined by Mexico) requested that the World Trade Organization take up the legality of that rule. The WTO confirmed a dispute panel’s finding that the COOL law accorded less favorable treatment to foreign livestock and therefore violated international trade law. The WTO then required Washington to revise the law by May 23.

Following the lawsuit, other industry groups that support the new COOL rule intervened as defendants in the case. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, for one, issued a statement praising the court’s decision.

“The revised USDA regulations announced on May 23 of this year will certainly reduce consumer confusion and will allow cattle producers the ability to differentiate their product from foreign beef,” USCA President Jon Wooster said.