Beef Buzz News
House Repeals Mandatory COOL- Opponents Vow Battle in SenateThu, 11 Jun 2015 05:58:13 CDT
The House voted late Wednesday to take country of origin labels off of meat products sold in the United States. The vote was 300-131 in favor of removing the labels. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill, introduced just last week, followed the most recent ruling, the latest of several, by the World Trade Organization in May that the law creates unfair trade barriers for Canada and Mexico. Both countries have threatened retaliatory trade actions against U.S. exports. Total retaliation proposed by the two countries totals $3.6 billion dollars annually.
Country of origin labeling (COOL) was mandated by the 2002 and 2008 farm bills. Many livestock groups and meat processors have been lobbying for the law to to be changed ever since. Consumer protection activists and livestock producers have lobbied just as hard to keep the law in place.
On today's Beef Buzz, Farm Director Ron Hays recaps the vote and some of the reaction to it from members of Congress as well as from the ag industry. To hear Ron's review of the COOL vote- click on the LISTEN BAR below.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association was quick to praise the strong yes vote for repeal. NCBA President Phillip Ellis of Wyoming says “COOL has been without benefit to the U.S. cattle industry and producers like myself. And now with retaliation eminent from our largest trading partners, it is time this legislation is repealed. There is no other fix that can be put in place to bring value to this program or satisfy our trading partners.”
“It is imperative that the Senate act quickly to pass this legislation,” added Ellis. “The governments of Canada and Mexico have been very clear that they fully intend to retaliate to the fullest extent allowed by the WTO and the only step before that happens is to determine the actual amount. Retaliation will be in the billions, and our economy cannot afford that hit.”
Also in response to the House vote, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) issued a statement calling it "an essential first step."
“Chairman Conaway and Representative Costa have shown incredible leadership in encouraging the U.S. live up to its obligations and abide by World Trade Organization rules,” NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter said in the statement. “It's an issue of marketing, and that should be decided in the marketplace. We hope the Senate will move quickly to vote for repeal so the President can sign the bill and put this failed experiment behind us.”
Similarly, the National Pork Producers Council issued a statement from their president Ron Prestage, saying, “We’re pleased that the House voted to repeal the meat labeling requirements of COOL. We need the Senate to do the same, and we need that to happen now; we must avoid trade retaliation from our No. 1 and No. 3 export markets.”
Opponents of COOL repeal called the move by the House premature. Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union described the move as a “disappointing, knee-jerk overreaction” and says they will focus on the Senate to slow this process down and consider other options besides repeal.
“Instead of allowing members of Congress the opportunity to debate and come to a reasonable solution to deal with the WTO compliance issue, the House has instead given us a reflexive reaction to repeal a very popular labeling law that provides important information to the nation’s consumers and is strongly supported by both consumers and family farmers,” said Johnson. “The House leadership is not interested in any reasonable solutions and blocked all amendments.”
Johnson noted that in past disputes, WTO members found ways to work together to arrive at a resolution that worked for all parties. “Unfortunately, today’s action by the U.S. House of Representatives does not work towards a resolution that maintains the integrity of COOL and satisfies WTO obligations. It instead signals an acceptance of defeat when there are still viable alternatives,” he said.
Bill Bullard with R-Calf was disappointed but not surprised by the vote. The group released a statement before the actual final vote on Wednesday night- their comments can be reviewed by clicking here.
As for members of Congress- House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway of Texas was thrilled with passage and the number of Democrats that joined the GOP in voting for repeal. “I am thankful for the support of my colleagues today in passing this common-sense, bipartisan bill that is a necessary targeted response to avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico. Two of our top trading partners announced earlier this month their intention to seek more than $3 billion in retaliatory sanctions against U.S. exports. This would extend far beyond the agriculture industry and would hurt nearly every sector of the U.S. economy. H.R. 2393 will prevent retaliation and bring the U.S. back into compliance, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act quickly on this urgent matter,” said Chairman Conaway.
“Today’s passage of the COOL Amendments Act is a critical step towards ensuring that the United States is no longer burdened by a law that harms our economy and our nation’s beef, pork, and poultry producers. California exports billions of dollars of commodities and manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico, many of which are produced in the San Joaquin Valley. The tariff retaliations will cost California more than $1 billion, inflicting a devastating blow to the state’s economic well-being. Country of Origin Labeling is a very real problem that requires a legislative fix. The COOL Amendments Act will put the U.S. back in compliance with its international trade obligations and stop trade retaliations by two of the nation’s top export partners,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Committee.
“Today, the House of Representatives continued the work started in the House Committee on Agriculture to repeal the non-trade compliant COOL law. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to send this legislation to the President in an effort to protect our American businesses. After multiple failed attempts at the World Trade Organization to bring the COOL law into compliance with our trading partners, Canada and Mexico, the House has done its part expeditiously to guarantee that no American industries are hurt through retaliation,” said Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Committee.
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