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New COOL Rule a Disaster

Thursday, May 23, 2013

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service today issued a Final Rule to modify the labeling provisions for the mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program. The new rule requires meat be labeled with source information for each production step - born, raised and slaughtered.

“The rule is a disaster. It will exacerbate costs, particularly for independent packers that need to commingle animals to run their plants near capacity. With the other factors impacting their business, some may not be able to continue to operate,” said NAMA CEO Barry Carpenter. “And it won’t appease those World Trade Organization concerns brought by Canada and Mexico that forced this regulatory initiative.”

Canada and Mexico successfully argued that the current COOL regime is not consistent with the WTO rules. Unfortunately, the new rule appears to be in even greater conflict with those same rules, and the segregation that the rule requires will cause further discrimination against product derived from livestock born outside the U.S., even when they are raised here. Both Canada and Mexico have promised trade retaliation. For WTO purposes, today’s publication of the rule makes the U.S. legally liable to that retaliation.

NAMA previously submitted a strongly worded letter of opposition in response to the revisions. Of particular importance was a request for a delay to allow time for the WTO review, but the USDA has denied the request outright. The rule is effective as of today. There will be a six-month delay in enforcement at retail, but that will neither give time for livestock imported into the U.S. under the current regulations to clear the system nor time for industry to make the necessary changes to comply.

“Worse still, these changes come without measurable benefit to the consumer. NAMA will continue to pursue means to avoid the significant economic and legal fallout that this injurious rule creates,” said Carpenter.

With representatives in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and a community of more than 600 companies, North American Meat Association provides its members exceptional regulatory advocacy, educational opportunities, and a spirit of partnership that is unique in the industry.

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