R-CALF: Senate Repeal of COOL Is Payback to Powerful Meatpacking Industry

July 23,2015

Senate Repeal of COOL Is Payback to Powerful Meatpacking Industry

Billings, Mont. – Today, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Hoeven (D-N.D.) are expected to announce the introduction of legislation that will repeal mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for muscle cuts of beef, pork and chicken and for ground beef, ground pork and ground chicken. Cosponsors of the measure include Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

In addition to repealing mandatory COOL, the proposed legislation authorizes meatpackers to voluntarily affix labels on muscle cuts of beef, pork and chicken denoting a United States origin provided the meat was produced from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. This new legislation adopts the same standards included in the meatpacker-led, voluntary COOL legislation (H.R. 2068) introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in his 2005 failed effort to derail the mandatory COOL law.

Unlike the failed 2005 meatpacker-led voluntary proposal, the new voluntary proposal in the repeal legislation does not contain any provisions for the voluntary labeling of ground beef or ground pork.

Below is the statement of R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard regarding the Senate’s repeal legislation.

"It is unprecedented and without justification for the U.S. Senate to be aggressively working to repeal our nation’s widely popular, mandatory COOL law while officials from the Office of the United States Trade Representative are simultaneously fighting aggressively at the WTO (World Trade Organization) to defend the United States’ sovereign right to continue informing consumers as to the origins of their food with mandatory country of origin labels. On June 16, 2015 the U.S. entered into the arbitration phase of the WTO dispute process and that phase is expected to last 60 days or more.

"The sponsors of this legislation are giving the meatpackers a huge gift and they are getting nothing in return. The gift is the repeal of COOL and the Senators are acting like the meatpackers’ minions by aggressively executing the meatpackers’ long-held desire to kill COOL. The meatpackers should be smiling like Cheshire Cats as their wish is coming true without them having to lift a corporate finger.

"The nothing that the Senate is actually getting for repealing COOL is the so-called voluntary COOL program. The meatpackers the new legislation purports to authorize to affix voluntary labels are the same meatpackers that sued the United States in federal court because they claimed their constitutional rights to free speech were being violated because mandatory COOL forced them against their will to inform consumers as to the origins of meat.

"In their lawsuit the meatpackers explained why they do not want to differentiate beef as to its origin. The meatpackers stated in their legal pleadings, "In short, beef is beef, whether the cattle were born in Montana, Manitoba, or Mazatlán."

"This COOL repeal legislation is an affront to our nation’s consumer groups who were never even consulted by the sponsors of this repeal legislation even though they were instrumental in passing mandatory COOL in the first place. It is also an affront to all the hard working U.S. farmers and ranchers who want consumers to know which beef in the grocery store was produced exclusively by them.

"We are deeply disappointed that this legislation is being introduced and we will do all we can to encourage the rest of the U.S. Senate to vote it down."

# # #

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.