House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway introduced legislation Tuesday to repeal Country of Origin Labeling, which has been ruled as non-compliant by the World Trade Organization. In light of the WTO’s decision and the certainty that the U.S. faces significant retaliation by Canada and Mexico, Conaway says action cannot be delayed. He says the legislation is a targeted response that will remove uncertainty, provide stability, and bring the U.S. back into compliance. House Ag Livestock and Foreign Ag Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Costa says mandatory COOL is a misguided government policy that has damaged U.S. trading relationships with Canada and Mexico. Costa says he and his colleagues have the data, studies and WTO’s experience to demonstrate that COOL is detrimental to state and national economies. Costa looks forward to continuing this bipartisan work to move the legislation forward and repeal COOL.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Philip Ellis says he is proud of the products he produces, but mandatory labeling has only cost producers money without benefit. Ellis says continued economic analysis has shown consumers do not use COOL information in their purchasing decisions. NCBA supports voluntary labeling efforts. He notes Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the USDA is at a loss on how to fix this rule, “That there is no regulatory fix that will bring COOL into compliance with the United States’ international trade obligations.” Ellis added the only solution is full repeal.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the legislation is premature and reactionary. Johnson says the best thing Congress could do is to step aside while the WTO process continues. “As with previous disputes WTO members can work together to find a solution that will work for them and, in this case, such a solution must involve continuation of a meaningful process step labeling requirement.” He claims COOL opponents have jumped on the opportunity to repeal COOL. Johnson says they should be spending their time and energy focusing on giving consumers information they want.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced Canada will be seeking authority from the WTO to use retaliatory measures on U.S. ag and non-ag products, in light of the final ruling and due to the fact that the U.S. has continued to discriminate against Canadian livestock products.