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U.S. District Court Rules against R-CALF and Cattle Producers of Washington in Country-of-Origin Labeling Challenge

Friday, June 8, 2018

(North American Meat Institute)

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington last week dismissed a lawsuit brought by Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America and Cattle Producers of Washington (plaintiffs). The lawsuit challenged a longstanding Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) rule regarding labeling imported meat products and involved the 2016 rule promulgated by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) repealing mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for certain beef and pork products.

The court found that the plaintiffs' challenge to the FSIS rule, originally promulgated in 1970 and most recently amended in 1989, was barred by the Administrative Procedure Act's statute of limitations. The court found a legal challenge to the FSIS rule needed to be filed not later than 1995.

The court also ruled against the plaintiffs on the merits, finding neither the FSIS rule nor the AMS rule were arbitrary and capricious. Rather, the court said both rules unambiguously effected Congressional intent, saying “[T]he 1989 Foreign Products Rule directly imports the language of the FMIA” and “Congress enacted the relevant provisions of the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act to comply with the WTO reports and decisions in 2012 and 2015.”

The decision prompted limited media interest, with RCALF's press release appearing to claim victory in the face of defeat and others calling on the administration to address COOL in the NAFTA negotiations. Although there is little indication COOL will be a subject of those discussions, the Meat Institute will continue to monitor this issue not only regarding NAFTA, but also with respect to the upcoming Senate 2018 Farm Bill markup, which is scheduled for this week.

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