R-CALF USA and 97 groups urge no changes to COOL law

Farm Forum

Washington, D.C. – On Jan. 22, R-CALF USA and 97 other groups representing cattle, farm, manufacturer, consumer and other rural interests sent an urgent letter to members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee urging them to make no changes to the country of origin labeling (COOL) law when they finalize the 2014 Farm Bill.

The groups sent their urgent letter following reports last week that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the agency responsible for defending the United States country of origin labeling law before the World Trade Organization, was lobbying the Farm Bill Conference Committee to weaken the COOL law.

“The widespread reports circulating on Capital Hill indicated that the USTR was capitulating to the pressures by COOL opponents, primarily the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and their transnational meatpacker allies, to weaken, if not eliminate COOL,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

Specifically, the reports indicated that the USTR was pressuring the Farm Bill Conference Committee to replace current COOL requirements with either a “Product of North America” label for meat from animals imported into the United States, or a “Product of USA” label for meat from animals exclusively produced in the United States.

“This is what the NCBA and meatpackers have wanted all along,” said Bullard adding, “They want to use the “Product of North America” on all meat produced in U.S. slaughtering plants so consumers will not know which products were derived from USA cattle and which were derived from imported cattle.

“Just like they did under the old COOL rules, the meatpackers want to add one foreign animal during each day’s production so they can label all their meat as a North American product, which would most certainly confuse consumers,” he said.

The group’s letter states that consumers and farmers overwhelmingly support the 2013 COOL rules that require retailers to inform consumers as to where the animal from which the meat was derived was born, raised, and slaughtered.

“Now is not the time to roll back the country of origin labeling provisions behind the closed doors of the conference process. Any changes to country of origin labeling should occur in full view of the American public with ample debate and recorded votes,” the groups wrote.

The cattle trade associations joining the letter to defend COOL include: Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH), Cattle Producers of Louisiana, Cattle Producers of Washington, Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND), Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Massey Road Producers, Dubuqe County (IA)Missouri’s Best Beef Co-Operative, Murray County, Oklahoma Independent Cattlemen’s Association, Nevada Live Stock Association, Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers, Oglala Sioux Livestock and Land Owners Association (SD), R-CALF USA, and South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.