R-CALF USA: COOL repeal legislation is siren call from the one percent
Billings, MT – On May 19, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX), along with a purported 61 cosponsors, introduced H.R. 2393, a bill to repeal country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, pork, and chicken products. In a news release, Conaway claims his bill is a “targeted response” to yesterday’s World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found Canadian and Mexican livestock were treated less favorably than domestic livestock.
“Conaway is misleading Congress and the American people,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard who added, “Conaway’s bill is nothing more than a Siren call by the one percent: He is trying to coerce the public into supporting something that will ultimately cause them harm.”
Bullard points out that Conaway’s bill calls for the removal of chicken from COOL requirements even though the WTO ruling had nothing to do with the labeling of chicken meat.
“This is proof that Conaway’s bill is not a ‘targeted response’ to the WTO; but rather, Conaway is exploiting the WTO ruling to support the multinational meatpackers’ decade-long effort to hide the origins of food from consumers,” Bullard said.
The U.S. district court and the U.S. appeals court for the District of Columbia have together issued three decisions since 2013 that found that the United States’ COOL law and regulations are compliant with the U.S. Constitution and that Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had the authority to pass and implement the law, respectively.
In those court decisions, COOL was found to serve a food safety function by allowing consumers to select products based on such factors as the United States’ supervision of the entire production process for health and hygiene and by containing the market impacts of a disease outbreak in a foreign country.
“Our courts have found that COOL benefits consumers and that there is nothing wrong with our COOL law,” said Bullard adding, “The problem is with the WTO and Congress should be introducing legislation to fix the WTO, not strip consumers of their right to know where their food is produced.”
The presiding official on the three-member WTO panel that issued the May 18, 2015 ruling that favored the positions of Canada and Mexico is Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, who is, according to his biography, not only a Mexican national, but he also was Deputy Counsel for Trade Negotiations of the Ministry of Economy in Mexico for more than a decade; he represented Mexico in international trade litigation; and he was lead counsel to the Mexican government in past WTO disputes.”
Bullard said the blatant conflict of interest created when a Mexican official is appointed to preside over a complaint brought by Mexico would never be tolerated in any judicial or administrative proceeding in the United States.
“This is just the tip of iceberg when considering the problems that Congress created by ceding a huge swath of U.S. sovereignty to the unelected and unaccountable WTO tribunal,” Bullard added.
Bullard said his organization is urging that members of Congress not allow Conaway and his followers to trick them into supporting the interests of a handful of multinational corporations at the expense of hundreds of thousands of U.S. livestock producers and hundreds of millions of U.S. consumers.
“What Conaway is doing is a travesty and we hope the majority of members will quickly see through it,” Bullard concluded.