Letter to the editor: Opinion of Kenny Graner on COOL

Farm Forum

Dear Editor,

For my wife Mary and I, it has been a privilege to be members of and work with the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA). We’ve been fortunate enough to participate in several of USCA’s Washington, D.C., fly-ins, and we’ve come to understand that USCA has become a well-respected voice on Capitol Hill with unprecedented access. The group has gained a national reputation as a reasoned, solution-oriented organization that policy-makers and administrators often call on for guidance. With leaders like Leo McDonnell from Montana and Danni Beer from South Dakota at the helm, I can tell you with confidence that USCA is working on any number of issues we are facing and is leading the effort to preserve America’s country of origin labeling (COOL) law.

As you know, America’s country of origin labeling law (COOL) has been challenged by Canada and Mexico at the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a result of the WTO dispute settlement panel’s ruling and subsequent negotiations between the U.S. and Canada, we now have until May 23, 2013 to bring certain provisions of COOL into compliance. Some groups and exporting nations oppose COOL, and they certainly haven’t let the facts get in their way. The truth is, the dispute settlement panel’s ruling affirmed the right of the U.S. to label product and also said the law has a “legitimate objective” in providing origin information to consumers. That’s good news. The panel’s findings, however, indicate that certain methods by which the law is implemented must be adjusted so they do not present a barrier to trade. Fixing this isn’t difficult and can be done through some simple changes in the implementation rules. Unfortunately, the opposition wants to make this harder than it has to be, and they consistently say the law was “poorly written” and that this WTO ruling signals the “demise of COOL.” Nothing could be further from the truth. What they’re really after is access to the “A” label, which is reserved exclusively for beef derived from cattle born, raised and processed in the U.S. These groups and exporters advocate a “North American” label, which will be a substantial step towards commoditization of U.S. beef and it will inhibit our right to differentiate our product in retail cases.

Throughout the WTO challenge, Leo McDonnell has fronted all of the legal expenses necessary to represent our interests and to ensure that we’ve had the best legal representation available to us. He has worked hand-in-hand with a top-notch law firm in Washington, D.C., that specializes in international trade issues, and they’ve done a fantastic job for us.

It’s time for us to step up. As cattle producers, we have a responsibility to become involved and do our part. Mary and I recommend that

you take two steps to do so. First, please help replenish Leo’s COOL Defense Fund by sending your contribution to Leo McDonnell, COOL Defense Fund, P.O. Box 1112, Columbus, MT 59019. Second, join the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. A cattle producer’s membership in USCA is available for $100 annually. In this group only cattle producers vote on policy. Businesses can support USCA by joining at a rate of $100 per year and college students or junior memberships are available for $25 per year. Send your membership check to USCA, P.O. Box 109, Winnett, MT 59087.

USCA is a no-frills outfit that doesn’t pay bloated salaries or rent extravagant office space. Its policy is driven by its grassroots membership. The group is working day in and day out on many fronts to represent cow-calf producers’ interests including not only COOL, but also on beef checkoff reform, marketing and environmental issues, the death tax and the farm bill, animal identification, animal health and many other issues. To be honest, USCA and North Dakota’s Dick Bowman, another USCA member, were instrumental in bringing about the critical changes needed in the national animal traceability plan. USCA’s winter membership drive is underway because we understand there’s formidable strength in numbers. As commercial Angus producers in North Dakota, my family appreciates what USCA is doing for us during this very difficult political climate. I urge you to join USCA and stand with us as we move forward to secure a future for our industry.

Kenny Graner, Mandan, ND