Billings, Mont. — Last week R-CALF USA submitted a whitepaper on country of origin labeling (COOL) to White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro. Titled “Why and How Mandatory COOL Should Be Reinstated Through the NAFTA Renegotiations & Why and How the NAFTA Rule of Origin for Beef Should be Amended,” the whitepaper explains the importance of COOL to both consumers and the U.S. cattle industry and provides a plan for restoring COOL for beef during President Trump’s renegotiation of NAFTA.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard met with Navarro in March during a meeting organized by the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA). During that meeting Bullard asked Navarro if he would use the NAFTA renegotiation as a platform to restore COOL and correct the faulty rule-of-origin contained in that agreement. Navarro responded with a request for a more detailed, written request for the changes, which is accomplished with the whitepaper.
The whitepaper states the rule-of-origin in the current NAFTA agreement should be changed to ensure that the origin of beef is the country or countries in which the animal from which the beef was derived was born, raised and slaughtered. This remains the standard in the COOL law that still applies to chicken, lamb, goat meat and venison, although beef and pork were removed from the law in late 2015.
The current NAFTA standard states the origin of beef is the country where the animal was slaughtered. Under that standard, a U.S.-based beef packer can import live cattle from Canada or Mexico, slaughter them in the U.S., and ship the resulting beef anywhere in the world or market it domestically as a “Product of the United States of America.”
“This, of course, places U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers at a severe economic disadvantage. It allows multinational packers to steal the good names and reputations of U.S. farmers and ranchers while simultaneously undermining the integrity and viability of the U.S. live cattle supply chain. The NAFTA rule of origin for meat is patently unfair, deceptive, and is seriously threatening the financial viability of U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers,” the whitepaper states.
The whitepaper lists numerous advantages for reinstating the U.S. COOL law for beef. Among those advantages is the support of domestic supply chains. The whitepaper states that mandatory COOL enables competition to occur at the retail beef counter by empowering consumers to decide from which country’s cattle supply chain the beef packer must source its beef to satisfy domestic demand.
“We’re confident that, when given the choice, more consumers than not will choose to ‘Buy American’ – to choose beef produced exclusively in the U.S. – and this will strengthen our economy by bolstering our domestic supply chain,” Bullard commented.