USCA (March 8, 2013) - The United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) is applauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) proposed rule to modify certain provisions of the country of origin labeling (COOL) program. USCA leadership says the proposed rule would modify the labeling provisions to require origin information about where each of the production steps occur and would remove the allowance for the commingling of muscle cuts. The rule will be published in the March 11, 2013 Federal Register and can be viewed at www.federalregister.gov/public-inspecton. Comments will be accepted until April 11, 2013.
"This is very positive news," said Danni Beer, USCA Director and COOL Committee Chairwoman. "We are very grateful to the Department of Agriculture for bringing the COOL rules into compliance with the WTO ruling and for recognizing and supporting our right to label U.S. products."
Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. COOL law at the WTO last year and an ensuing WTO ruling affirmed the right of the United States to require origin labeling and said that the program entailed a legitimate objective. The WTO decision also found certain provisions in the rules by which the law is implemented were inconsistent with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The U.S. was then given until May 23, 2013 to come into compliance with the WTO ruling.
"Our COOL team is analyzing the proposed rule released today, but initial indications show the proposed rule incorporates aspects of the legal analysis commissioned in part by USCA and provided to the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for consideration," said Jon Wooster, USCA President. "USCA has insisted all along that the most effective and efficient methods of coming into compliance with the WTO ruling should not be difficult. We are pleased to know that the Office of Management and Budget, which reviewed the proposed rule prior to its release, has determined that the changes are not economically significant, will not increase consumer prices and will not place any more burden on producers or processors."
Wooster continued, "It will be particularly important for COOL supporters to submit comments on the proposed rule. It should come as no surprise that COOL opponents have seized every opportunity during the WTO process to try and undermine the COOL program and they will do so again during the public comment period. USCA has worked tirelessly and has devoted countless resources to preserving and protecting the original intent of the law and to preventing opponents from further commoditizing U.S. beef. USCA extends its gratitude to USDA for expediting this process and for making it as transparent as possible."