WASHINGTON (NAFB) – Almost 100 farmer, consumer, and other rural groups, including R-CALF USA and the Center for Rural Affairs have written members of the farm bill conference committee, asking them to protect U-S-D-A’s country of origin labeling rule, called COOL, in the 2014 farm bill.
COOL supporters want consumers to know where livestock was born, raised, and slaughtered, while opponents say the cost of tracking and segregating animals is too much.
R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard says the letter was drafted after reports that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative was lobbying conferees to weaken COOL.
John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs says the USTR pressured conferees to replace current COOL rules with a ‘Product of USA’ or ‘Product of North America’ label for meat from animals imported into the U.S.
The letter says a North American or NAFTA-meat label is entirely unacceptable and that many COOL advocates would oppose a farm bill containing such language. The signing groups add that country of origin labeling provisions should not be rolled back behind the closed doors of the farm bill conference process. They say any changes should occur in full view of the American public with ample debate and recorded votes.
The World Trade Organization will hear Canada’s complaint against U.S. country of origin labeling rules in February.
Canada says the new rules unveiled by USDA are more restrictive and harmful to Canadian beef cattle and pigs imported into the U.S. than the earlier version that was found to violate WTO agreements. Mexico, China, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Australia and Colombia are among the third parties in the dispute.