Oregon Rural Action joined with 141 diverse groups to deliver a letter on July 28 urging the U.S. Senate to reject both the efforts to repeal the country of origin labeling (COOL) law and to convert COOL into a voluntary labeling program for beef, pork and chicken.
The letter urges the Senate “to defend consumers’ right to know where their food comes from and the ability of farmers and ranchers to proudly identify their livestock as born and raised in America.”
Congress enacted COOL for beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb, seafood and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills and expanded COOL to cover venison in the 2014 Farm Bill. Consumers overwhelmingly support these labels.
In 2008, Canada and Mexico challenged COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO), contending that these labels were a trade barrier. WTO has ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico. Both countries have threatened a high penalty to frighten Congress into repealing COOL rather than letting the WTO dispute process run its course.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal COOL for muscle-cuts of meat and ground beef, pork and chicken. In late July, dueling COOL amendments were offered on the Senate highway bill. One amendment that was identical to the House bill would repeal COOL. The other proposal would repeal mandatory COOL for beef, pork, chicken and ground meat but gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture discretion to establish a voluntary COOL program for some of those meat products.
The next phase of the WTO COOL dispute will consider the extent to which COOL has prevented Canada and Mexico from exporting cattle and hogs to the United States.
“We urge Congress to stand up for America’s consumers, farmers and ranchers by rejecting any effort to unilaterally repeal or weaken a popular food label even before the WTO process has concluded,” the letter states.
Urge Oregon’s U.S. Senators to oppose the Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Trade Enhancement Act of 2015, that would repeal COOL and make it a voluntary labeling program. You can reach Ron Wyden at (541) 962-7691 and Jeff Merkley at (541) 278-1129.