USDA has released its final rule to modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut commodities covered under country-of-origin labeling. The rule was written to comply with a 2012 World Trade Organization panel decision that the COOL requirements for certain meat commodities were inconsistent with the WTO agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade because they discriminated against Canadian and Mexican livestock imports. The final rule modifies the labeling provisions in question to require the origin destinations to include the countries in which the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. It also removes the allowance for comingling of muscle cuts. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA is confident these changes will improve the overall operation of the program and bring COOL into compliance with U.S. international trade obligations.
Mixed Reaction to Final COOL Rule
National Farmers Union is pleased that USDA decided to stand strong and keep country-of-origin labeling. According to NFU President Roger Johnson – the decision to bring the law into compliance with the WTO’s ruling is a win-win situation for all interested parties. Further – Johnson says NFU applauds the administration for taking a proactive approach in bringing COOL into compliance by providing more information on the origins of our food instead of simply watering down the process. But National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Scott George calls the action by USDA short-sighted. He says the nation’s largest trading partners have already said these provisions will not bring the U.S. into compliance with its WTO obligations and will result in increased discrimination against imported products and – in turn – retaliatory tariffs or other authorized sanctions. George says any retaliation against U.S. beef would be devastating for producers. He says USDA has set U.S. cattle producers up for financial losses and placed a greater record-keeping burden on producers, feeders and processors.
George notes cattlemen and women don’t oppose voluntary labeling as a marketing tool to distinguish product and add value – but says they don’t want USDA marketing beef. He says a label that says ‘harvested’ is unappealing to consumers and cattle producers.
Source: NAFB News service