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Local cattlemen support labeling origin of beef
STOWELL/BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
The 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 in order to establish mandatory labeling of products with their country of origin. The U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on March 16, 2009. It requires the labeling of fresh fruits, vegetables, shellfish, fish, various nuts, beef, pork, lamb, goat and chicken.
In 2008, Canada, later joined by Mexico and other countries, filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization. They argued that the COOL provisions were inconsistent with the United States' obligations under the WTO agreement.
In 2012, the U.S. appealed the WTO dispute settlement panel's first ruling. The WTO's Appellate Body agreed with the dispute panel's finding that COOL regulations treat domestic livestock more favorably than imported livestock. However, they reversed the dispute panel's ruling that COOL does not fulfill its legitimate objective. The WTO ruled that the U.S. does have the right to label its products but needs to address issues with the legislation.
The U.S. had until May 23, 2013, to comply with the WTO's recommendations. As a result, the USDA issued a final COOL rule with more strict labeling requirements. The WTO required labels showing where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.
On July 8, opponents of COOL (the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, American Meat Institute, Canadian Pork Council, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, North American Meat Association, American Association of Meat Processors, Southwest Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council, and Mexico's National Confederation of Livestock Organizations) filed a preliminary injunction request to stop the implementation of the revised COOL rules. Their request was denied by U.S. District Judge Ketanji B. Jackson on September 11, 2013. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling.
The proponents of the COOL regulations include the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, the National Farmers Union, the American Sheep Industry Association, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas.