Stockgrowers Re-affirm support for COOL – Call on Congress to resist language that weakens labels

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Board of Directors met last week and voted unanimously to re-affirm member developed policy calling for Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling. The Stockgrowers Association called on Congress and the Senate to reject recent proposals that would seek to make the program voluntary or repeal the labels completely.

“We will not support any effort that repeals or weakens COOL,” said Bob Fortune, President of SD Stockgrowers Association. “South Dakota Stockgrowers has always worked to ensure that our customers know where their food comes from and we will not compromise that position.”

After the WTO ruled against the United States’ labeling program, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced a bill to repeal COOL on all beef, pork and poultry products, but has been unable to secure enough votes to move the bill forward. At the same time, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced legislation that would repeal COOL on those products even though labels and poultry and ground beef and pork were not included in the WTO ruling. Stabenow’s proposal would allow the Secretary of USDA to implement a voluntary label on some USA raised meat products.

“Repealing COOL is unacceptable to our members, and we believe that the voluntary COOL proposal is as bad as a repeal. Our producers have no way to compel packers to use a voluntary labels. We’ve had voluntary COOL before and it didn’t work.”

“Now, congress seems ready to throw out COOL rather than stand up and defend our laws,” Fortune continued. “Stockgrowers continues to insist on mandatory COOL labels, and we ask Senator Thune and Senator Rounds to defend our labels and uphold COOL as a mandatory program.”

The World Trade Organization ruled against the United States’ labeling program after Canada and Mexico filed claims that COOL discriminates against imported products. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will now enter into arbitration process to discuss settlement of the complaint. Already the USTR has countered Canada’s claim of $3.6 billion in damages by releasing their own report that damages may only be as high as $90 million. The arbitration process will formally meet in Geneva, Switzerland on September 15 and 16.