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House Votes to Repeal COOL on Meat

Monday, June 15, 2015

(North American Meat Institute)

The House of Representatives last week voted to repeal the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, pork and poultry products sold in the U.S., in an effort to stave off approximately $3.6 billion in economic retaliation from Canada and Mexico. The 300-131 vote favoring repeal follows a series of rulings by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which held that the COOL rule violates the United States' international trade obligations and illegally discriminates against imported livestock from Canada and Mexico. A WTO Dispute Settlement Body will hear arguments on June 17, regarding potential retaliatory measures announced by Canada and Mexico.

Supporters of the House bill, which included 66 Democrats and 234 Republicans, argue that repealing the COOL law is the only way to protect the U.S. economy and prevent damaging retaliatory tariffs. Opponents, however, claim that consumers support labeling that declares where animals are born, raised and slaughtered, and warn against setting a precedent where international trade deals weaken the ability of consumers to access information about their food.

The legislation now proceeds to the Senate, where members remain divided. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) strongly supports COOL repeal, whereas Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Committee's Ranking Member, favors an approach that continues to provide information about food origin to consumers in a way that meets international trade obligations.

In a statement, the Meat Institute applauded the legislation's passage, calling it a critical first step to avoid billions in penalties from Canada and Mexico. "Everyone knows this is not about food safety," said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. "It's an issue of marketing, and that should be decided in the marketplace. We hope the Senate will move quickly to vote for repeal so the President can sign the bill and put this failed experiment behind us."

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