Billings, Mont. – Detractors of the United States’ country of origin labeling (COOL) law are reenergized as a result of a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that determined that COOL violates international trade laws because it results in foreign livestock being treated differently than U.S. livestock. Despite polls indicating overwhelming support for COOL, and although the WTO dispute process has not yet concluded, Congress worked feverishly before the August recesses to either repeal COOL or to weaken it by establishing a wholly voluntary program in its place.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said he anticipates that the 300 U.S. House members who already voted to repeal COOL and the many members of the U.S. Senate agriculture committee who are cosponsoring legislation to either repeal COOL or replace it with a voluntary program will be spending the remainder of their congressional recess trying to justify to their constituents why they are surrendering to the WTO even before the WTO dispute process is finished. Bullard said the WTO has scheduled a hearing in mid-September during which the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is expected to argue that damage claims made by Canada and Mexico in the COOL dispute are overstated by nearly 98 percent.
Today, R-CALF USA issued the following top 10 reasons independent U.S. cattle producers support the mandatory COOL law. Bullard said the reasons also serve to explain why Congress should reverse its anti-COOL position and begin to steadfastly defend the United States’ sovereign right to inform consumers as to the origins of their beef, pork and chicken.
1. COOL Creates Marketplace Competition: Without COOL, packers unilaterally decide when to source U.S. cattle and when to source foreign cattle. With COOL, consumer buying preferences tell packers when they must source U.S. cattle to satisfy the growing demand for USA beef. With COOL, U.S. cattle are no longer a generic commodity.
2. COOL Empowers Consumers to Decide Whether Foreign Food Safety Standards Are Good Enough: The U.S. no longer requires food safety systems in foreign packing plants to be at least equal to the U.S. and it no longer conducts monthly inspections of foreign packing plants. The U.S. only requires foreign safety systems to be equivalent and inspections to be conducted periodically.
3. COOL Ensures U.S. Producers a More Competitive Allocation of Beef Profits: Without COOL, packers exploit the generic nature of cattle by deflecting profits away from U.S. producers and sharing them with foreign producers. With COOL, profits from USA beef are allocated directly to U.S. cattle producers. This is why the cattle-producers’ share of each consumer beef dollar jumped to a 20-year high in 2014 – COOL caused a more competitive allocation of beef profits.
4. COOL Provides Consumers with Marketplace Choices: Because COOL distinguishes U.S.-produced beef from foreign beef produced in the 14 foreign countries that import beef into the United States, consumers can, for example, choose if they want their beef produced in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, or the United States.
5. COOL Empowers Consumers to be Patriotic: Approximately 18 percent of the beef in the U.S. market is imported beef. When consumers purchase imported beef, their dollars support foreign cattle producers. Only with COOL can consumers direct their food dollars to support U.S. farmers and ranchers by purchasing beef that is exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.
6. COOL Helps Reduce the Mounting Trade Deficit with Canada & Mexico: While it is true that Canada and Mexico are the 2nd and 3rd largest export markets for U.S. beef, respectively, it also is true that the U.S. imports far more beef and cattle from Canada and Mexico than it exports to them. In 2014 the U.S. deficit with Canada and Mexico was $2.3 billion in the trade of cattle, beef, beef variety meats and processed beef. The U.S. has had a trade deficit with Canada and Mexico in each of the past 25 years and the cumulative value of that deficit is $27.9 billion.
7. COOL Eliminates Consumer Deception: United States’ law requires all beef produced in both foreign and domestic packing plants to be labeled with a U.S. inspection sticker if the plants are certified to sell beef in the U.S. market. This prominent U.S. inspection sticker misleads consumers into believing the product is of U.S. origin. Only with COOL can consumers ascertain the true country-of-origin of their beef purchases.
8. COOL Empowers Consumers to Respond Immediately to Emerging Diseases: Without COOL, if a disease outbreak is reported in a foreign country, consumers would not know if they were purchasing beef from the affected country unless a recall is issued that identifies the lot numbers on affected beef packages. With COOL, consumers can immediately identify beef products originating from the affected country and can immediately choose to avoid them.
9. COOL Helps Confine the Market Impacts of a Disease Outbreak: Without COOL, if Honduras, Brazil, or Costa Rica, for example, reported a disease outbreak with human implications such as BSE or mad cow disease, the only way consumers could avoid beef from the affected country would be to cease purchasing all beef. With COOL, a disease outbreak in a foreign country could be confined to only products imported from that country and consumers could continue purchasing beef produced in the U.S. or another unaffected country.
10. COOL Helps to Stop Packers from Breaking the U.S. Cattle Market: Without COOL, packers can decide to increase imports of cheaper live cattle from Canada and Mexico today; or from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Australia sometime in the future, for the purpose of reducing demand for U.S. cattle and lowering their price (note that Brazilian cattle are one-half the price of U.S. cattle). With COOL, consumer demand for USA beef can only be satisfied with U.S. cattle and this will prevent packers from substituting foreign cattle for domestic cattle to satisfy that demand.
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.