COOL repeal passes House

The House of Representatives on a strong bipartisan vote of 300-131 passed legislation (H.R. 3293) to repeal country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken. Congress needs to pass legislation to bring the United States into compliance with the recent World Trade Organization ruling or the United States could face over $3.6 billion per year in tariffs on various products including beef, pork, corn, ethanol, wine, cherries and various manufactured items that Canada and Mexico have announced.

This is the result of the United States losing its final appeal before the WTO on May 18. The WTO ruled in 2014 that the COOL requirements for beef and pork discriminated against Canada and Mexico and created unfair trade barriers. The North American Meat Institute said, the legislation cosponsored by Congressmen Mike Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Jim Costa (D-CA), ranking member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, encourages “the U.S. to live up to its obligations and abide by World Trade Organization rules. It's an issue of marketing, and that should be decided in the marketplace. We hope the Senate will move quickly to vote for repeal so the president can sign the bill and put this failed experiment behind us.” 

The COOL Reform Coalition is calling on the Senate to act quickly on this legislation. They said, “Mexico and Canada are already moving toward instituting retaliatory tariffs that reportedly could reach as high as $3.6 billion in the first year. The House has taken a stand to protect the U.S. manufacturing and agricultural economies, and now the ball is the Senate's court. If the Senate fails to quickly do the same, Mexico and Canada will be free to enact retaliation as soon as late-summer, threatening tens of thousands of American jobs.” The proponents of COOL argue consumers support COOL and there needs to be an alternative to repeal. The National Farmers Union said, “We call upon the U.S. Senate to avoid the rush to judgment demonstrated by the House today and work with COOL supporters on a viable alternative that will finally bring this long process to closure.” 

The National Consumers League is calling on the Senate to protect COOL. The NCL said, “Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from, and they clearly want country-of-origin labeling. Having that label tells consumers about the safety and purity of their food. Surveys show that 90% of Americans want this labeling on the meat products they buy for their families - showing that the House vote is drastically out of sync with the wishes of their constituents. Trade agreements must not be used to prevent U.S. consumers from getting the information they clearly desire. The American meat industry's undue influence in this vote goes directly against these interests. This is a step backwards, and the NCL is calling on the Senate to protect COOL, a hard-won protection that is valued by American consumers." 

The bill now moves to the Senate where COOL legislation originated in the late ‘90s. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, it was time for the Senate to “get a move on” or the Senate “can sit here” and let retaliatory tariffs happen.  

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