A federal judge early Wednesday denied a preliminary injunction request in the lawsuit over USDA's country-of-origin labeling rule.
According to National Farmers Union and the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, a district judge denied a request by COOL opponents to temporarily block the rule from going into effect. Plaintiffs had asked for the rule to be blocked until the litigation was settled.
"The judge’s ruling to deny the injunction on COOL regulations continues to reinforce NFU’s positive position on COOL," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "We have long supported COOL and the consumer’s desire to know where their food comes from. We are pleased that the packer-producer organizations and foreign interests’ attempts to thwart COOL have been denied. We are committed to defending COOL and will continue to do so throughout this legal process."
Jon Wooster, president of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, said his organization also is pleased with the court's decision.
"If the injunction had been granted it would have ensured that the United States would be in violation of its trade obligations under the WTO and also would have further delayed consumers having the type of information Congress has long intended them to have. The revised USDA regulations announced on May 23 of this year will certainly reduce consumer confusion and will allow cattle producers the ability to differentiate their product from foreign beef," Wooster said.
Groups opposing USDA's rule filed a lawsuit July 8 to stop the rule from going into effect. Those groups include the American Association of Meat Process, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association and Southwest Meat Association.
The plaintiff groups argue in their court filing that the new COOL requirements violate the U.S. Constitution amounted to the government "compelling speech" by the packers and retailers, but the compelled speech doesn't serve a governmental interest. Instead, the companies are adversely affected "by compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest." COOL is not a food safety issue and offers no public health benefits.
While the initial ruling has gone in USDA's favor, the department has yet to officially implement the rule that was finalized in May.
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