Farmers urge Senate to repeal COOL, avoid harmful tariffs

WASHINGTON—Farmers and ranchers are urging the U.S. Senate to follow the House of Representatives’ lead and repeal country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, mandates for beef, pork and chicken.

The World Trade Organization decided Dec. 7 that Canada could impose $780 million in retaliatory tariffs and Mexico could impose $228 million as damages for the COOL labeling requirements that allegedly put livestock producers and processors in their countries at a trade disadvantage.

If those countries impose the tariffs, U.S. farmers and ranchers would be at “serious risk,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

The House voted in June to repeal COOL for meat products, and the Senate is expected to make a decision by Dec. 18.

“While many farmers and ranchers across the country question the WTO’s final ruling, the fact is that the appeals process is exhausted, and it is probably in everyone’s best interest to repeal COOL for beef, pork and chicken as quickly as possible to hopefully avoid the proposed tariffs,” said Spencer Neale, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation vice president of commodity marketing.

In Canada’s case, a possible short list of proposed regulatory tariffs included not only U.S. live cattle and hogs and fresh and frozen beef and pork products, but many other items, including apples, bread, cereal, cherries, frozen orange juice, maple syrup and wine, Neale said.

Stallman said the AFBF “supports country-of-origin labeling that meets WTO requirements, and we support the remaining COOL programs, but the risk of retaliation by Canada and Mexico is too great.”

The COOL rules require most retailers to provide consumers with the origin of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, shellfish, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, ginseng, meat and poultry. The rules were introduced in the 2002 Farm Bill and amended in 2008 to include fresh and frozen meats.

Less than one year after the COOL rules took effect, Canada and Mexico challenged them, arguing that COOL gives U.S. farmers an unfair advantage.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement entered into force in 1994, U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico has more than tripled to $1.2 trillion, and the two countries buy about one-third of U.S. merchandise exports. Those exports support nearly 14 million U.S. jobs.

Media: Contact Neale at 804-290-1156.

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