R-CALF USA applauds Senate country-of-origin-labeling letter

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Farm Forum

Billings, Mont. – R-CALF USA applauds yesterday’s action by a group of 31 U.S. Senators led by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Charles Grassley (R-IA). who sent a joint letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk informing them that it was Congress’ intent to provide reliable information to consumers “about where their meat and seafood comes from” when Congress enacted the mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) law after more than 10 years of deliberation.

With that introduction, the Senators proceeded to urge Vilsack and Kirk to focus only on a regulatory solution to address the recent ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the United States must change how COOL is implemented.

In addition to calling only for a regulatory fix to the rules that implement the COOL statute, the Senators urged Vilsack and Kirk to work with industry stakeholders and to ensure “that a regulatory fix provides accurate information about the origin of all meat cuts to consumers.”

“We are very pleased that this large group of U.S. Senators has stepped to the plate to defend COOL,” said R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz.

Schultz explained that while his group does not believe the WTO has any authority to infringe on United States’ sovereignty by forcing the U.S. to change either its laws or regulations, he nevertheless agrees with the Senators request that a new rulemaking be initiated.

Last August R-CALF USA sent a letter requesting that Vilsack and Kirk initiate a new rulemaking to eliminate the loophole in the COOL rule that allows meat produced exclusively in the U.S. to be mislabeled with a multiple country-of-origin label.

Last September R-CALF USA joined in a lawsuit with the Made in the USA Foundation and other cattle and consumer groups that was filed in federal district court to challenge the WTO’s authority to undermine U.S. COOL.

“We cannot leave any stone unturned in our fight to defend COOL and our chances of winning are now much better with this bipartisan group of Senators who have come to the defense of COOL,” Schultz concluded.