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Not cool! Congressional ag leadership reacts to ruling on country of origin labelling

WASHINGTON – In its fourth and final ruling, the World Trade Organization again sided with Mexico and Canada in the dispute over USDA’s controversial mandatory country of origin labeling rule (COOL). That rule required the labels on many meat products to list where the contributing animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

Proponents of COOL argue that consumers have a right to know where there meats are sourced from, while opponents of the rule derided the cost of segregating meat throughout the production chain.

In response to the ruling, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, Sen. Pat Roberts, issued the following statement.

As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will consider any solution – including repeal regarding meat – that will allow the United States to be WTO-compliant and avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico.
As early as next month, Canada and Mexico may be given the green light to retaliate against the U.S. by way of implementing billions of dollars in tariffs on U.S. exports. Not only will meat be subject to tariffs, but also related U.S. industries will be hit with undeserved tariffs. Those costs will be passed on to consumers.
I have long had concerns with COOL for meat. USDA’s attempt to fix COOL was not enough, and we now know that those changes continue to be problematic in the eyes of the WTO. If Congress doesn’t act swiftly, retaliation will wreak havoc on the U.S. economy.
I have serious concerns that potential remedies suggested, such as the generic label, will not satisfy the Canadians and Mexicans and fail to halt impending retaliation.
I am working with my colleagues in the U.S. Senate to develop a solution. We’ll do whatever it takes to protect the livelihood of American farmers, ranchers and industries that will be targeted by retaliation.

House Ag Committee Chairman, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, also released a statement reacting to the WTO decision.

Once again, the WTO has found COOL to be non-compliant – a decision we fully expected. As retaliation by Canada and Mexico becomes a reality, it is more important now than ever to act quickly to avoid a protracted trade war with our two largest trade partners. I have asked my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to weigh in on resolving this issue once and for all during a business meeting this Wednesday in a targeted effort to remove ongoing uncertainty and to provide stability.

For the state of Iowa, retaliatory tariffs are expected to target $1.3 billion worth of exports, including pork, alcohol, corn, corn syrup and soybeans.