Billings, Mont. – R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard issued the following statement in response to yesterday’s letter from international and national dairy industry organizations and a corresponding statement issued today by the National Farmers Union (NFU) that urge Congress to pass legislation that would surrender mandatory Country-Of-Origin Labeling (COOL) to the World Trade Organization (WTO) even though the WTO arbitration process requested by the United States is still pending:
“The dairy industry groups’ letter urges immediate Senate action to fully comply with the WTO’s adverse COOL ruling and further qualifies that any Senate action must be agreed upon by Canada and Mexico. Similarly, the NFU statement calls on Congress and agriculture leaders to support a voluntary COOL program, which like the dairy industries’ request is a call for a full repeal of mandatory COOL.
“It’s no wonder the number of U.S. farmers and ranchers continually shrinks at alarming rates when our own U.S. agriculture organizations refuse to fight to defend and preserve policies such as mandatory COOL that they themselves recently supported on grounds that it was essential for the success of independent producers.
“Rather than surrender our mandatory COOL law that is absolutely essential to enable domestic livestock producers to compete against the growing tide of imported meat, agriculture leaders and Congress should be seeking other solutions to convince Canada and Mexico to back off. After all, both Canada and Mexico are dependent on the U.S. as their largest export customer.
“It is utterly ridiculous to assume that our nation does not have sufficient leverage to preserve mandatory COOL without harming other U.S. economic sectors.
“It’s time for U.S. agriculture leaders, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and Congress to stand up for U.S. farmers and ranchers by refusing to capitulate to the conflicted WTO ruling. If the USDA and Congress do so despite our strenuous objections, that is one thing. It is quite another, however, for agriculture groups to actually lead the charge to repeal an economic tool as important as mandatory COOL for U.S. producers – it is, in fact, unconscionable.
“Do not fall for their deceitful rhetoric. Voluntary COOL is as bad as or worse than a full repeal of COOL because voluntary COOL puts in the hands of the meatpackers the unilateral authority to decide whether or not to affix a U.S. label, which leaves producers at the whim of those very packers. Further, voluntary COOL does not address at all the need to label imported meat, such as meat from Brazil, Honduras, Mexico and Canada.
“Anything less than preserving mandatory COOL for U.S. farmers and ranchers will harm the economic viability of our independent nation’s producers.”
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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.