After failed appeals to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the threat of billions of dollars in retaliatory sanctions by Canada and Mexico, the House of Representatives on June 10 voted to effectively repeal mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, pork, and chicken. The Senate is expected to do likewise.
"The starting point needs to be that mandatory COOL for meat is a failed experiment which should be repealed," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), who introduced H.R. 2393. It was approved by a vote of 300-131.
First adopted in the 2002 Farm Bill, COOL required labels that tell consumers where meat was born, raised and slaughtered – for example, "born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States."
Other countries – primarily Canada and Mexico, the largest livestock exporters to the U.S. -- claimed it gave an edge to U.S. products. The WTO ruled against the labeling program four times. Canada and Mexico threatened to slap an estimated $3 billion annually in retaliatory sanctions against U.S. exports – products ranging from meat to wheat, wine, chocolate and even furniture, according to a House memo.
Even the meat industry and other agricultural groups support the repeal. Some ranchers and consumer groups support labeling.
The repeal legislation would leave in place COOL requirements for several other commodities, including lamb, venison, seafood, fruits and vegetables and some nuts.