Over 200 Groups Urge Congress to Continue Supporting COOL

Over 200 Groups Urge Congress to Continue Supporting COOL

Billings, Mont. – Today 207 groups representing a broad segment of the U.S. economy, including farm, ranch, consumer and manufacturing groups, joined in a letter that urges U.S. Senate leaders to continue supporting the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) law that is presently under attack by the governments of Canada and Mexico at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The group’s letter specifically urges Congress not to weaken, suspend or rescind COOL in the upcoming legislation to provide funding for the federal government in FY 2015.

The group’s letter follows on the heels of a bipartisan letter sent by 32 Senators that likewise urged Senate leaders not to weaken or suspend COOL in the FY 2015 appropriations process.

Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. COOL law at the WTO alleging that livestock from their respective countries were being treated less favorably than domestic livestock under the new requirement that muscle cuts of meat be labeled so consumers will know where the animal from which the meat was derived was born, where it was raised, and where it was harvested.

In October, the WTO agreed with Canada and Mexico and concluded that some U.S. meatpackers were either opting not to purchase foreign livestock or they were discounting foreign livestock because they would have to be segregated in order to label their resulting meat properly.

"These packers that are vehemently opposed to COOL are achieving a self-fulfilling prophecy by refusing to buy and by imposing discounts on foreign livestock for the purpose of according Canada and Mexico with evidence to use at the WTO to undermine COOL," said R-CALF USA Bill Bullard.

Bullard said the packers would not be able to do this if the U.S. cattle market were not so concentrated because in a competitive market, another buyer would be available to purchase livestock the big four packers were shunning. This is not likely to occur in the U.S. market where just four meatpackers control about 85 percent of the fed cattle market.

"It is only because our entire domestic livestock market lacks competition that multinational meatpackers are able to impose discounts in a market in which the supply of cattle is extremely tight and retail beef prices are continually climbing to new highs," Bullard added.

Last week the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) appealed the WTO ruling and a decision on the appeal is not expected until well into 2015.

"Congress should not short circuit the WTO process; nor should it unconditionally surrender to the threats of tariff retaliation by our trading partners. We believe the United States has strong grounds to appeal the most recent WTO ruling," the groups wrote.

As additional support for the U.S. COOL law, the groups wrote:

"American consumers are increasingly interested in understanding more about the origins of their food and the public overwhelmingly supports Country of Origin Labeling. The commonsense COOL labels that are in place today provide additional and more accurate information about where their food comes from. Farmers are proud of the food they put on American dinner tables and support the current COOL labels that allow consumers to make more informed food purchasing decisions."

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.