Two bills were introduced in the Senate that take different approaches to resolve the country-of-origin labeling issue. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has introduced legislation that would repeal mandatory COOL. This is similar to the bill the House of Representatives passed last month. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the committee, and John Hoeven (R-ND) have introduced legislation that replaces mandatory COOL with a voluntary program.
The packer would determine if they wanted to participate in the program. It would still require that the label indicate in which country the animal was born, raised and processed. This was the main issue before the World Trade Organization that Canada and Mexico raised in their successful case against the United States. The Roberts’ bill has been endorsed by the COOL Reform Coalition, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council and the North American Meat Institute. The Stabenow-Hoeven bill has the support of the National Farmers Union and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.
Canada rejects voluntary COOL bill
In a statement announcing its opposition to the voluntary bill, Canada said, “The U.S. Senate must follow the lead of the House of Representatives and put forward legislation that repeals COOL once and for all. The only acceptable outcome remains for the United States to repeal COOL or face $3B in annual retaliation.” The WTO is expected to announce in the near future the level of tariffs that Canada and Mexico may levy against the United States as a result of the WTO ruling in their favor. The two countries are asking for $3.2 billion per year.