Ag Policy Blog

Views in Congress Vary on COOL

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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What's next in the tangled, litigious 12-year running soap opera known as Country-of-Origin Labeling?

Congress declined to change COOL in the 2014 farm bill. House members blame the Senate for blocking any changes in COOL until the WTO completed its work. An appeal of the ruling on Monday likely could stretch out any possible retaliatory actions by Canada until late 2015. By then, either the Obama administration could draft yet another rule and leave it to the next administration to defend or Congress could opt to kill or change the rule.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., indicated Monday that it's time for the administration to throw in the towel. “Today’s announced decision by a WTO compliance panel underscores what many have known for some time. The United States mandatory country-of-origin labeling law for beef, pork, and chicken is a failed experiment. It is time for the Administration to put this case behind us by exercising leadership in order to achieve a lasting compromise that is satisfactory for our producers, processors, retailers, consumers and our trading partners."

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., joined the chorus of COOL supporters who reiterated that the WTO said the U.S. could have a country-of-origin labeling law, just not the way it is implemented now.

“We can spend decades litigating this issue at the WTO, or we can work together to find a solution that encourages international trade and gives consumers what they need to make choices for their families," Stabenow said.

Stabenow's press statement added that she "is committed to protecting the legitimacy of the COOL program and move beyond the litigation for the benefit of producers, processors, and consumers."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he supports COOL, but Congress should revisit the issue.

“I’m a supporter of Country of Origin Labeling. People, now more than ever, want to know where their food comes from. We know where our T-shirts come from. We should know where our meat comes from. After two negative findings from the WTO, with the second WTO ruling saying that the revised rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was actually worse than the original rule, it’s likely time for Congress to go back to the drawing board. Country of Origin Labeling needs to be written and implemented clear of any trade distorting principles. As a member of the world trading community, we have an obligation to be trade compliant, even if we disagree with the rulings," Grassley said.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., defended the rule and called for the Obama administration to keep pushing the issue at the WTO.

"American families have the right to know where their food comes from. COOL helps them make informed decisions for their families, while also recognizing our local producers. The WTO’s ruling re-affirmed this right, but raised questions about COOL’s implementation. The U.S. Trade Representative should appeal this ruling and work to protect American consumers’ right to know where their food was born and raised," Tester said.

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