Groups Petition Court for Permission to Defend COOL

Four groups representing farmers, ranchers, rural communities and consumers filed court papers on Aug. 23 asking permission to defend mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) from a lawsuit filed by the meat industry.

R-CALF USA, Food & Water Watch, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Assn. and the Western Organization of Resource Councils petitioned the court to allow them to defend COOL. Meat industry groups have fought COOL since it was first proposed in the 2002 Farm Bill.

The rule was near implementation earlier this summer when the meat groups filed a suit to stop it. "The meatpackers allege in their lawsuit that the final 2013 COOL rules violate their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech, that the labels were not specifically authorized by the Farm Bill and that COOL labels provide no benefit to consumers," the farm, ranch and consumer groups said in a news release.

"Country of Origin Labeling was included in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, but it has been under constant attack from domestic and foreign meatpackers that do not want consumers to know where their food is from and do not want to pay American farmers and ranchers a fair price for their livestock," the groups said.

USDA issued rules this March, but the World Trade Organization ruled the labeling violated international trade rules. After USDA revised the rules, a suit blocking them was filed by the American Assn. of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Assn. and Southwest Meat Assn.

COOL would require muscle cuts of beef, pork, lamb and goat meat to display where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.

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