NCBA Concerned that Proposed Modification to COOL Law Will Increase Cost to CustomersWed, 13 Mar 2013 18:20:25 CDT
Country of Origin labeling has been controversial ever since it was enacted as part of the 2008 farm bill. When USDA implemented COOL, groups like the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the American Meat Institute, and others that said it was not a rule that would be helpful to anyone in the meat industry.
At the same time, the smaller, more populist groups like the National Farmers Union, RCALF-USA, and U.S. Cattlemen that praised and defended COOL when Canada and Mexico challenged it in the World Trade Organization court. These groups like what the USDA has come up with in its new rule or face retaliation by Mexico and Canada.
Bob McCan, a south Texas rancher and president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays and says the NCBA has always been of the opinion that COOL was a broken piece of rulemaking and the proposed fix is no better.
"There is no regulatory fix to bring this COOL law into compliance with the WTO ruling that would satisfy Canada and Mexico. Unfortunately, this additional labeling is, in disallowing the comingling of the muscle cuts, is only going to increase costs for meat processors and retailers in this country which, in turn, is going to increase the cost of beef to our consumers.
"It is unfortunate that the USDA is not able to at least willing to try to do something to help us, to give us some relief from this COOL law," McCan says.
The proposal by the USDA is open for comment from the public until April 11th.
McCan says the NCBA is not against COOL labeling entirely, but it is against the mandatory nature of the proposal.
"Our position is totally voluntary. I don't think we're against labeling per se, but we just think it needs to be voluntary. This mandatory rule has been onerous for cattle producers ever since it was implemented.
"We are proponents of voluntary labeling just like we're proponents of voluntary measures on most laws."
McCan says the worst thing is that this COOL law puts us directly at odds with Canada and Mexico, two of the largest customers of U.S. beef.
"We really want to try to do everything we can to continue that relationship and improve on it. This COOL law just makes it very difficult to continue to do business."
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