Late on Friday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) rejected the latest recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a generic mandatory label option should the United States lose its World Trade Organization (WTO) appeal regarding country of origin labeling (COOL) in the coming weeks.
Earlier on Friday, USDA released two reports on the topic; one acknowledged that COOL offers no measurable consumer benefits, and the other outlined two options for complying with previous WTO decisions, which rejected the U.S. law as being trade distorting. In the compliance report, USDA said the United States would have to repeal the law or amend it by establishing a generic mandatory label for meat if the country loses its latest WTO appeal. The WTO is expected to issue its ruling on the dispute no later than May 18, 2015.
Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules require most retailers to provide country-of-origin labeling for fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, shellfish, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, ginseng, meat and poultry. This issue is of concern to the U.S. dairy sector because of potential retaliation against U.S. dairy exports.
By way of background, Canada and Mexico have challenged the rule for muscle cuts of meat at the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that COOL has a trade-distorting impact by reducing the value and number of cattle and hogs shipped to the U.S. market. The WTO found the United States to be in noncompliance with its international trade obligations.
IDFA has joined the COOL Reform Coalition to advocate for U.S. compliance with WTO obligations and urged Congress to authorize and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to rescind elements of COOL that have been determined to be noncompliant. If the United States does not comply, Canada and Mexico will likely retaliate with high tariffs on a wide variety of U.S. agriculture imports, including U.S. cheese. Retaliatory tariffs could be imposed as early as summer 2015 if COOL is not reformed.
“The Coalition for Cool Reform offers IDFA members an easy and expedient way to tell your senators and representatives that you’re concerned about COOL and its impact on trade,” said Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs. “Use this link to send a custom letter today.”
For more details, contact Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org.