NOBULL: Two COOL Articles

USDA remains ‘confident’ in meat labeling law


Capital Press

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 9:56 AM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture remains "confident" in its meat-labeling law even as eight meat and livestock groups from the United States have filed a lawsuit to block it, an agency spokeswoman said.

The suit by groups including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council asserts the country-of-origin labeling regulation revised this spring violates the U.S. Constitution in that it regulates speech without a discernible public benefit.

Further, the groups claim the revised rule exceeds the scope of its congressional mandate in that labels on muscle cuts of beef, pork and other meats must include information on where animals were born, raised and slaughtered. The rule also removes the allowance for commingling of cuts from different countries.

"USDA remains confident that these changes will improve the overall operation of the program and also bring the mandatory COOL requirements into compliance with U.S. international trade obligations," spokeswoman Michelle Saghafi told the Capital Press in an email.

Federal officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed July 8 in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. But the statement marks a continued commitment to stand behind the law amid persistent attacks from critics, including the Canadian government’s threat last month to slap tariffs on a variety of U.S. commodities in response to the law.

Joining the NCBA and NPPC as plaintiffs are the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Canadian Pork Council, the American Association of Meat Processors, the American Meat Institute, the North American Meat Association and the Southwest Meat Association. Named as defendants were the USDA and the Agricultural Marketing Service.

The lawsuit was blasted by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, a staunch proponent of the labeling law. Chief executive officer Bill Bullard noted that the NCBA, the NPPC and the North American Meat Association have received or requested checkoff dollars.

While federal law prohibits producer checkoff dollars from being used to influence public policy, Bullard said such funds flowing to the NCBA and NPPC are like "soft money" contributions in election campaigns in that they enable the groups to devote their non-checkoff money toward fighting the labeling law.

He has long accused the NCBA of doing the bidding of major meatpackers, which have opposed the labeling law.

"The only reason this lawsuit has been filed is because the meatpackers … want to continue to exploit U.S. consumers by sourcing cheaper imported cattle and selling beef at the full price based on the U.S. cattle producers’ reputation," Bullard said in an interview.

The plaintiffs argue the labeling law offers no food safety or public health benefit, yet imposes annual costs on the meat industry the federal government estimates at $192 million.

"All livestock and meat processed at federally inspected establishments in the United States and sold in interstate commerce are subject to the same health and safety requirements" under federal law, the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint. "Those products are also graded for quality according to a system administered by AMS without variation based on where an animal was born and raised.

"In short, beef is beef, whether the cattle were born in Montana, Manitoba or Mazatlan," the complaint said. "The same goes for hogs, chickens and other livestock."

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information, go to

Groups speak out against COOL lawsuit

John Maday, Managing Editor, Drovers CattleNetwork | Updated: 07/10/2013

Earlier this week, we reported that several U.S and Canadian livestock and meat groups have filed a suit to block the USDA’s latest country of origin labeling (COOL) law on constitutional and statutory grounds. Since then, pro-COOL organizations have issued statements in opposition to that action.

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson says the lawsuit is another in a series of delaying tactics. “Time and again, many organizations that represent or are heavily influenced by meatpackers have dragged their feet when it comes to COOL,” he says. “They prevented COOL from being implemented after the 2002 Farm Bill, tried to block it following the 2008 farm bill, and now are suing to stop the revised COOL rules from taking effect. Such delaying and stalling tactics only serve to deprive their customers of important information about the products they buy.

“Farmers, ranchers, consumers, and perhaps even the processors themselves would be much better served if meatpackers complied with the new rules that were written to World Trade Organization guidelines and approved by the administration. The American public deserves and wants to know where their food comes from and the new COOL rule ensures that they do.”

R-CALF USA meanwhile, issued a release claiming some of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are illegally using Checkoff funds to support the litigation. "Either directly or indirectly, producer checkoff dollars are helping the meatpacker-lobby to fight against the widely popular COOL law that U.S. livestock producer and U.S. consumers successfully passed in 2002," says R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

Specifically, the group notes that among the plaintiffs, the NCBA receives Beef Checkoff funds, the National Pork Producers Council receives Pork Checkoff dollars and the North American Meat Association has submitted proposals for Beef Checkoff funding.

"Although the NCBA may not be directly paying their COOL litigation expenses with checkoff funds, the checkoff funds allow it to offset a large portion of its organization’s administrative expenses, which allows it to devote its more limited non-Checkoff money toward fighting COOL and other initiatives the multinational meatpackers do not like," Bullard says.

"The reason the NCBA and NPPC are fighting to help the meatpackers exploit consumers by attacking COOL is because they both have meatpackers seated on their governing boards,” he adds, “making them meatpacker trade groups rather than producer trade groups."

For more about the lawsuit, read “Groups file suit, say COOL rule violates U.S. Constitution.”

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information, go to