OCA Eyes WTO and Washington D.C. on COOL, TPA and WOTUSFri, 15 May 2015 17:21:45 CDT
All eyes are on the World Trade Organization, as a ruling on the U.S. Country of Original Labeling (COOL) law is expected in the coming days. This will be the fourth ruling by the WTO and if they are consistent with their previous rulings it will be against the United States. If realized, this will likely lead to retaliation by Canada and Mexico. Once the ruling comes out, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey expects that Congress will begin to move forward to address COOL. He has heard Congress has begun work on language that would repeal mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling. He is just hopeful that Canada and Mexico will give the U.S. a grace period, before they begin to retaliate. If they can hold on, he believes they will give two major customers for U.S. beef some assurances. Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Michael Kelsey. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below to listen to the full interview.
Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released the results from research studies on COOL. Like previous studies, Kelsey said consumers will say they place a value on knowing where their beef comes from, but when they get to the meat case, price is the number one factor in their decision and they don’t pay attention to the mandatory government label. USDA’s research has also shown COOL has cost the industry more than it has benefited.
“It hits home to the fact that, mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (mCOOL) is not the answer that some would view it to be,” Kelsey said.
Congress also dictated that U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack come up with a proposal on how to fix COOL. Kelsey understands that Vilsack told Congress he has done everything he can do under the law and it’s up to Congress to respond. He said that means Congress will have to either repeal the law or fix it.
OCA policy supports a voluntary approach to COOL. Kelsey said let’s allow individuals to market and differentiate their product. He said if consumers really value and are willing to pay for it, then producers will be rewarded and consumers will be rewarded because they have a product that they want.
Congress continues to move forward with Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Kelsey said TPA is vitally important in negotiating new trade agreements. Currently negotiations are underway for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But in order to get TPP, he said Congress needs to give the Obama Administration TPA. This provides the current and next Administration to negotiate trade agreements. In the case of TPP, he said the agreements could be brought to Congress for an up or down vote.
“It’s not turn key for the Administration, Congress still has the authority. It just allows for some efficiency in negotiations and we really need it," Kelsey said.
The battle over the Clean Water Act proposal known as “Water of the U.S.” (WOTUS) is coming to a crossroads. On one side, Congress is trying to stop WOTUS. On the other side, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy is determined to finalize the rule and it's a race to see which will happen first. Kelsey wants to see this effort stopped, but he thinks this is an indication of what landowners can expect in the future.
“It eludes to the fact we are going to see these types of ideas and thoughts for a long time,” Kelsey said. “No matter who the Administrator is, no matter who is even sitting in the White House, these ideas of controlling land to control the water are going to be longterm, so we must remain vigilant. I’m appreciative that we have a great congressional delegation that understands that, knows that and has really stepped in the gap and been leaders for this effort.”
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