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North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter Tells Senators Mandatory Country-Of-Origin Labeling Must Be Repealed

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Washington, DC -- North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter today told Senate Agriculture Committee members that mandatory country of origin labeling must be repealed to bring the U.S. into compliance with WTO obligations and to avoid a possible $3 billion in annual penalties. Carpenter was one of six witnesses to testify in the hearing.

In opening remarks, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) said, “Facts are stubborn things. Whether you support or oppose COOL, retaliation is coming.” Roberts said that the strain that mandatory COOL has put on the U.S. relationship with Canada and Mexico is “cause for concern.”

According to Carpenter, “The most vocal proponents of COOL for livestock have a single objective: to block the importation of livestock from our neighbors. The law has never been about distinguishing meat products in the market, it is simply a protectionist measure intended to exclude Canadian and Mexican livestock from the U.S. market. It is and always has been a non-tariff trade barrier. Anyone ignoring this fact is not a serious participant in this discussion.”

Carpenter stressed that repeal is the only option and that rewriting the law is simply not viable. “The U.S. has run out of opportunities to try to “fix” COOL,” he said. “We should stop talking among ourselves to address COOL. We should be talking with the Canadian and Mexican governments – to do otherwise is a fool’s errand. And, I can tell you the Canadian and Mexican governments are very clear that repeal is the only solution.“

He added that proposals for voluntary labeling discussed in the hearing do not repeal the provisions making beef, pork, and chicken covered commodities in the law and that the Secretary of Agriculture currently has broad statutory authority to write all manner of voluntary programs.

Carpenter commended the House of Representatives for recognizing the gravity of the situation and voting overwhelmingly to repeal COOL for beef, pork, and chicken. “We urge the Senate to move quickly and put this failed experiment behind us once and for all,” he said.

To read Carpenter’s testimony, click here.

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