Farm Bureau supports Conaway bill to repeal mandatory Country of Origin Labeling

Farm Forum

Huron, SD (May 29, 2015) – Farm Bureau has announced its support for a bipartisan bill passed last week by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee that would repeal mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and chicken. The move was promoted by a May 18 ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that ruled against the U.S. and in favor of Canada and Mexico, countries once again challenging our country-of-origin labeling laws.

“Our Farm Bureau policy, originated by our members at the county level, says we support country of origin labeling if it is WTO compliant. The World Trade Organization has consistently ruled against COOL, and this fourth ruling made it clear that we need a legislative solution to prevent our North American trading partners from taking retaliatory action, which they’ve said they will do on a long list of commodities,” said Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau and farmer from Volga, S.D.

H.R. 2393 was passed last week (38-6) by the House Ag Committee, chaired by Congressman Mike Conaway (R-Texas). This bill does retain country of origin labeling provisions for other commodities, including lamb and goat meat, which stays true to Farm Bureau policy.

Canada and Mexico are two of the top export markets for U.S. agricultural products. Now that the WTO has found the U.S. country-of-origin labeling to be non-compliant with international trade obligations, Canada and Mexico are allowed and authorized to retaliate by imposing a set of tariffs on U.S. exports, which could exceed $2 billion. In South Dakota alone, tariffs could be imposed on $344 million worth of exports, including beef and pork.

“South Dakota farm and ranch families will be harmed if COOL stays on the books, because of costly sanctions from our key trading partners and damage to these long-term relationships that we need to have secure and profitable export markets. In American agriculture we’re exceptionally good at the production side, so we must continually attend to the consumption end of the equation. This legislation protects our international trade relationships and our ability to export our abundant agricultural products. Without strong trade partners, U.S. agriculture will suffer greatly,” VanderWal added.

Research done by Kansas State University found that COOL provisions do not affect consumers’ purchasing decisions, because the typical U.S. resident is unaware of COOL and does not look for meat origin labeling when making a purchase. The costs of COOL have also added up: the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service estimates that it has cost approximately $2.4 billion in added expenses for the livestock and meat industries to comply with country of origin labeling.