With today’s passage of a fiscal 2016 catch-all federal spending bill that includes repeal of the meat labeling provision of the U.S. country-of-origin labeling law, the United States avoided harmful retaliation from its two biggest trading partners. The National Pork Producers Council, which last week drafted and sent to congressional lawmakers a letter signed by 248 other organizations urging labeling repeal, welcomed the move.
The COOL statute requires 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. The WTO set the retaliation level at $1 billion annually.
Congress approved the so-called omnibus bill with language repealing the labeling provision for beef and pork, thus avoiding retaliation. The Senate and House Agriculture Committee chairmen, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, were instrumental in getting the repeal language added to the spending measure.
“America’s pork producers are grateful that lawmakers, particularly Chairman Roberts and Chairman Conaway, recognized the economic harm we faced from retaliation because of the WTO-illegal COOL law,” says NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “I know tariffs on U.S. pork would have been devastating to me and other pork producers.”
According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the average U.S. pork producer currently is losing money on each hog marketed, and those losses would have been exacerbated significantly under retaliation from Canada and Mexico.