Billings, Mont. – Although their deadline for completing and passing the nation’s fiscal year 2016 spending bill expired 79 days ago, today both houses of Congress cheered as the President signed their $1.1 trillion measure, which will now cover only nine and one-half months, the time remaining in the 2016 fiscal year.
By wide margins – 318-109 in the House and 65-33 in the Senate – the dilatory Congress passed the massive spending bill knowing full well that within the dark reaches of its more than 2000 pages was a provision that had nothing to do with government spending but everything to do with satisfying multinational campaign contributors.
Section 759 of the spending bill strips U.S. citizens of their right to know the origins of their food, specifically the origins of the beef and pork and ground beef and ground pork that hundreds of millions of consumers purchase at retail grocery stores for themselves and their families. The U.S. law that mandated the labeling of beef and pork with country of origin labels was implemented in 2009 and is known as the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law.
Congress did this and the President concurred without any congressional debate, let alone public debate. Section 759 was cemented into the massive spending bill behind closed doors.
According to R-CALF USA, this was Congress’ and the President’s gift to a handful of multinational meatpackers that want to expand the list of countries from which they currently source their beef to sell to unsuspecting U.S. consumers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the current list of beef sources includes 15 countries.
“Those meatpackers are having difficulty marketing beef in the U.S. market from countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Canada at prices that satisfy their shareholders. This is because our COOL law empowered consumers to differentiate United States-produced beef from the beef imported from less developed countries,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
Bullard said the multinational meatpackers first tried to repeal the COOL law in Congress in 2008 but was unsuccessful because the issue was then subject to the democratic process of open debate. In 2013 the meatpackers tried again to repeal COOL but this time in the U.S. judicial system. They filed a complaint in a U.S. district court and subsequently appealed their case to a U.S. court of appeals. The district and appellate courts soundly rejected the meatpackers’ claims that COOL violated their rights.
“But the meatpackers enlisted the help of the governments of Canada and Mexico to bring their grievance against COOL to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which was more than happy to help them deprive U.S. citizens of their right to know where their food was produced,” Bullard remarked.
Bullard said the WTO was poised to authorize Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory tariffs in the amount of just over $1 billion if the United States did not capitulate to the meatpackers’ demand that COOL be repealed or take the next step.
“The next step in the process was for the President to direct his cabinet members to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Canada and Mexico to resolve their parochial concerns with our COOL law before any retaliatory tariffs could be implemented, but the President and his cabinet remained indifferent to the potential loss of the right of U.S. citizens to know the origins of their food,” Bullard explained.
“Now the Congress and the President have foreclosed any opportunity to preserve our COOL law through diplomatic channels when together they gifted the repeal of COOL to the multinational meatpackers in the 2016 spending bill,” Bullard concluded.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.