The United States Senate Agriculture Committee hosted a hearing on Thursday, June 25 to consider legislation that would repeal Country of Origin Labeling and threats of trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico. Representatives from the North American Meat Institute, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Kansas Livestock Association, New York Wine & Grape Foundation and Archer Daniels Midland Company were all members of the panel of witnesses chosen to testify on the dangers of COOL. Only one cattle producer, Leo McDonnell of Montana, was allowed to testify in defense of COOL.
“South Dakota Stockgrowers Association has supported COOL since its beginning and we continue to believe that mandatory Country of Origin Labeling is the best and only option to make sure that our customers have information about where their food comes from,” said Bob Fortune, SDSGA President from Belvidere, SD. “It’s unbelievable that our United States House and Senate are caving in to the threats of Canada and Mexico to remove the labels that tell people where their food comes from.”
“Repealing COOL or changing it to a voluntary labeling program will not work and South Dakota Stockgrowers can’t support anything short of a mandatory label. As ranchers and as consumers at the grocery store we will have no way to compel the packing industry to label our food unless it’s required of them. We believe that there is a way to satisfy Canadian and Mexican concerns without removing the right of families to know where their food comes from.”
The ruling from the WTO, found that Canada and Mexican cattle are treated differently when imported to the United States due to labeling requirements but the arbitration process has yet to determine what, if any damages can be claimed by the other countries. That arbitration process is just beginning and could take most of the summer to complete.
“It is way too early for Congress or the Senate to throw in the towel on COOL. We are really glad to hear that the USDA is committed to the arbitration process and finding a solution that allows us to keep COOL in place as a mandatory program,” said Fortune. “Stockgrowers members have worked hard to keep COOL, and we appreciate Representative Noem and Senator Thune’s support to stand against repealing Country of Origin labels.”