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NAMI Responds to NFU's COOL Commentary; Urges Senate Action

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

(North American Meat Institute)

NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter wrote an op-ed in Agri-Pulse last week responding to an earlier column by Roger Johnson , president of the National Farmers Union, in which Johnson touted the Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Trade Enhancement Act of 2015 as "the only path forward for food labeling." Johnson posits that the bill, which was introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Hoeven (R-ND), would constitute a win for our trading partners, producers and consumers, and suggests that it brings the U.S. into compliance with its World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations.

Carpenter, however, stresses that Johnson's commentary is misleading, noting that Canada and Mexico have rejected the proposed voluntary label, a signal that both countries would institute retaliatory tariffs even if the bill is passed. Carpenter's piece urges the Senate to follow the strong, bipartisan majority in the House, which voted 300-131 to repeal COOL on meat. Carpenter further suggests that the marketplace, not Congress, should develop a flexible, voluntary approach that provides consumers the information they truly want.

Philip Ellis, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, also responded to Johnson's piece, echoing many of NAMI's concerns, including the detrimental economic impacts of retaliation on U.S. industry and jobs.

Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz last week issued a statement calling for outright COOL repeal, stating that the Stabenow-Hoeven voluntary labeling proposal will result in billions of dollars of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. Mexico's Ministry of the Economy shared Canada's concerns with the proposal, indicating that tariffs would be imminent and inevitable unless COOL is fully repealed.

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