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Pork & Processing

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US Congress repeals COOL meat labelling

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will no longer enforce the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements for beef and pork products as the regulation has been repealed by US Congress.

The United States has thus avoided harmful retaliation from its two biggest trading partners, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) reacted. The organisation drafted and sent to congressional lawmakers a letter signed by 248 other organisations urging labeling repeal.

COOL: Meat should be labelled

The COOL statute required meat to be labelled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and harvested. (It also applied to fish, shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and certain nuts.)

Canada and Mexico brought cases against COOL to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which ruled that it violated US international trade obligations, discriminating against Canadian and Mexican livestock sent to the United States to be fed out and processed. The decision authorised Canada and Mexico to put retaliatory tariffs on US goods going to those countries – the number 1 and number 2 US export markets. The WTO set the retaliation level at $1 billion annually.

Approving an omnibus bill

Congress approved a so-called omnibus bill with language repealing the labelling provision for beef and pork, thus avoiding retaliation. In a press release, NPPC said the Senate and House Agriculture Committee chairmen, republican senators Pat Roberts, and Michael Conaway, were instrumental in getting the repeal language added to the spending measure.

"America's pork producers are grateful that lawmakers, particularly Chairman Roberts and Chairman Conaway, recognised the economic harm we faced from retaliation because of the WTO-illegal COOL law," said NPPC president Dr Ron Prestage. "I know tariffs on US pork would have been devastating to me and other pork producers."

Losing money on each hog marketed

According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the average US pork producer currently is losing money on each hog marketed, and those losses would have been exacerbated significantly under retaliation from Canada and Mexico.

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