The United States Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on beef and pork products will no longer be required at the grocery store effective immediately. That is in response to a provision passed on Friday by both the U.S. House and Senate as a part of the omnibus 2016 spending legislation. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the agency would no longer enforce those provisions.
“We’re disgusted with the politics that have led to this repeal. It’s just crazy that we can label car parts and diamonds and t-shirts, but we aren’t allowed to tell you where your steak is from. It makes no sense to me,” said Stockgrowers President Bill Kluck. “As it now stands, COOL is gone on all beef and pork products, so our customers won’t be able to know where that food is from. Losing these labels is a huge loss for our customers but also for us as producers. We’re producing high quality products and we now have no way to distinguish our beef from that of 20 some countries that are importing beef to the states.”
‘We’ve seen our markets fall considerably in the last months. Our calf prices are down drastically from last year and we’re seeing more and more cheap beef imported from other countries. That has a significant impact on our U.S. economy,” explained Kluck. “Repealing these labels won’t help our producers. It will only make it easier for the big meatpacking industry to push down our market prices while supplying meat from foreign sources and the customer no longer has the right to know the difference.”
The labels were repealed after a long battle with the World Trade Organization after Canada and Mexico filed suit against the United States, claiming that COOL violated provisions of the NAFTA trade agreement and discriminated against their producers. At the same time, Canada and Mexico livestock producers were experiencing record prices for their animals and importing large volumes of beef and pork into the United States.
On December 7, Canada and Mexico were granted authority to assess more than $1 billion in annual tariffs as compensation for damages caused to their economies by U.S. Labeling laws. The decision was substantially less than the $3 billion originally requested by those countries and yet it caused a ripple of panic through lawmakers in Washington DC.
Vaughn Meyer, Stockgrowers Marketing Committee Chair from Reva said, “It is very dis-heartening to realize our national Congressional leaders would rush to appease a WTO tribunal rather than defend the rights of United States consumers to choose safe and wholesome beef and pork products. It is also very disappointing that our Congressmen and Congresswomen would sacrifice U S sovereignty through these free-trade agreements.”
“SD Stockgrowers are very proud of Senator Thune for recognizing the many perils lurking within the 2016 Omnibus Spending Bill. His refusal to not support legislation which stripped South Dakota farmers and ranchers of COOL and their rights to label their products was a very noble decision, “stated Meyer.
Bill Kluck said, “Stockgrowers will continue to fight for strong country of origin labeling. We’re not giving up on this. We hope that folks will continue to ask for U.S.A. raised product at the grocery store and support our beef producers right here in the United States, because as ranchers we’re going to keep raising high quality, safe beef for your family.”