COOL Finds New Hope in Freshmen Democrats

U.S. country-of-origin labeling was repealed in 2015


Greg Henderson, Drovers 

July 8, 2019


Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) has new life in Washington, D.C. That’s because 27 freshmen House Democrats sent a June 25 letter to Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and are urging the resurrection of COOL requirements as part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Those 27 House members say a vote on USMCA should not occur until the White House also includes strong enforcement provisions on labor and environment in the trade agreement.


Despite the newfound COOL support, analysts are calling the COOL resurrection a “long-shot.”


COOL was in effect from 2009 to 2015, requiring that beef and pork product labels cite where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. Canada and Mexico challenged the law with the World Trade Organization, which ruled against the U.S. COOL regulations. Threatened with a combined $1.1 billion in annual retaliatory duties, the U.S. Congress repealed COOL in December 2015. 


The letter from the Congress members stated: “Mexico and Canada already have used trade rules to undermine the food labeling that America’s farmers and ranchers support and the transparency that consumers demand. A final NAFTA package must restore the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) passed by Congress and affirmed by U.S. courts.”


Austin Laufersweiler, spokesman for Rep. Andy Levin, one of the letter’s organizers, said the labeling provision was included “because it benefits workers, who are at the heart of the protections the freshmen are trying to have included.”


Among American groups pushing for reinstatement of COOL regulations are the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF). Groups opposing COOL are the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).


Mexico has already approved USMCA, and it’s not immediately clear what impact the reintroduction of COOL would have on that approval. But Canadians have already voiced their opposition.


“While Canada respects that shoppers should be able to make informed decisions about the food they buy, mandatory COOL measures would place an undue burden on Canadian and American livestock supply chains, hurting producers on both sides of the border,” a spokesperson for the Canadian embassy in Washington wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call, a Washington D.C. news outlet that covers Congress.


Canada and Mexico objected to COOL...


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