USDA releases final COOL rule

The USDA Tuesday released a final rule related to the country-of-origin labeling law, making official the repeal of the meat labeling provision of it. Congress in December included a year-end funding bill to repeal language, which allowed the United States to avoid trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico, which objected to the COOL law. Avoiding retaliation was the top priority of the National Pork Producers Council, which helped lead a broad coalition supporting repeal of the pork and beef labeling requirement of COOL. It sent a letter signed by 248 agriculture and business groups urging lawmakers to approve the repeal language.

The COOL statute required meat to be labeled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and harvested. (It also applies to fish, shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and certain nuts.) Canada and Mexico brought cases against COOL to the World Trade Organization, which ruled that it violated U.S. international trade obligations, discriminating against Canadian and Mexican livestock sent to the United States to be fed out and processed. The decision authorized Canada and Mexico to put retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods going to those countries — the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. export markets. In December, the WTO set the retaliation level at more than $1 billion annually. Repeal of the labeling provision for pork and beef came the day — Dec. 18 — those tariffs could have been applied to a host of U.S. exports going to Canada and Mexico.

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