House Ag SubCommittee Discusses Endgame of COOL as Final WTO Decision Nears- with AudioThu, 26 Mar 2015 05:27:57 CDT
Today, Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, held a public hearing to examine the implications of potential retaliatory measures against the United States in response to its country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef and pork.
In 2002, Congress initially adopted a country-of-origin labeling requirement for meat products despite serious concerns that it would not comply with trade commitments. Subsequently, the law was amended in 2008 and immediately challenged in the World Trade Organization (WTO) by Canada and Mexico, the main livestock exporters to the U.S. The WTO has since ruled three times in their favor, and members and witnesses at today's hearing stressed the significance of the U.S. potentially losing its fourth and final appeal.
"We could be looking at substantial retaliatory sanctions against agriculture and a variety of other industries," Chairman Rouzer said. "As we heard from our panel of witnesses, the threat of retaliation is severe, and Congress must act quickly to prevent irreparable damage to certain industries and the overall economy. After hearing from members of the agriculture and business communities, it is more apparent than ever that this committee must not only fully understand the potential consequences following the WTO decision, but be ready with a legislative solution. I remain committed to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to avoid retaliation."
Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway said, "I applaud Chairman Rouzer's leadership on this urgent issue. I agree with my colleagues on this subcommittee that we should look into all ramifications of the WTO decision so we can find a way to maintain trade with our main livestock markets, Canada and Mexico. Meat industries knew from the start that this policy would not hold up in the WTO, but Congress didn't listen, and we have seen major costs with no benefits. COOL has been a failed experiment from the start, and now the economic damages we could face will be felt by all Americans, not just the agriculture industry."
At the hearing- all the witnesses, except for Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union, testified that it is highly likely that the WTO will rule against the US in our final appeal- and that retaliation by Canada and Mexico could begin very quickly after that decision is made public in Mid May.
Agreeing with Chairman Conaway was a witness representing the beef industry, Michael Smith with Harris Ranch from California. Smith told the Committee that COOL was a "solution looking for a problem" and was clearly and simply "bad public policy." Smith concluded that he sees no other fix for the current COOL rules other than totally repealing the law. You can hear Smith's comments provided to the Committee by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
Smith's written testimony is available here.
The President Elect of the National Pork Producers Council, John Weber, also testified before the Subcommittee- his written statement is available here.
Defending the need for COOL and expressing his hope that Congress will fix COOL and not repeal it was the President of National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson. Click here for his testimony.
From outside of the agricultural community- Christopher Wenk of the US Chamber of Commerce offered testimony, available here, that called for Congress to quickly fix this problem and repeal the underlying law.
During testimony, Wenk told the Committee that all the experts agree, that on or before May 18th when the WTO will be revealing their decision regarding the final US appeal of the COOL case, the US will lose and the clock will be ticking for Canada and Mexico to begin retaliation against the United States because of COOL.
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