December 21, 2015

'Un-cool"; COOL law is repealed by Congress

With bipartisan support, Congress passed the $1.15 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill on Friday, which funds much of the government through fiscal year 2016. Included in this bill was the long-disputed country of origin labeling (COOL) law for beef and pork which was repealed.

Repeal of the law as it applies to U.S. labels for beef and pork has been a growing topic in livestock circles for several years, coming to a head this month when the World Trade Organization sanctioned $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports by Canada and Mexico.

Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) vice president of government affairs, said COOL had noble beginnings with the idea that consumers would pay more for products labeled as products of the U.S. But unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Instead COOL has plagued the beef industry with significant costs and caused problems on Capitol Hill and with trading partners, he said.

The long-running dispute between the U.S. and its two largest trading partners resulted in four WTO rulings against the U.S. — found to be in violation of trade obligations by COOL’s discrimination against cattle and hogs imported from Canada and cattle from Mexico.

NCBA calls the COOL repeal a “significant victory for America’s cattle producers.”

“COOL has plagued our industry for many years now, costing us millions and driving us to the brink of retaliation from two of our largest trading partners,” NCBA President Philip Ellis said in a press release following passage of the spending bill. "Cattle producers have had to bear the cost of this failed program for far too long.”

Pork producers also welcome the repeal.

America’s pork producers are grateful that lawmakers recognized the economic harm producers faced from retaliation, National Pork Producers Council President Ron Prestage said in a press release.

“I know tariffs on U.S. pork would have been devastating to me and other pork producers,” he said.

Pork producers are currently losing money on each hog marketed, and those losses would have been exacerbated significantly under retaliation from Canada and Mexico, NPPC contends.

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