Billings, Mont. – In a letter sent yesterday to the members of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee (Committee) R-CALF USA urged the rejection of any effort to create a voluntary country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law. The Committee is scheduled to consider a bill introduced by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) this week that would block state GMO labeling laws. Reports indicate that when the GMO bill moves to the Senate floor, North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp plans to offer an amendment to create a voluntary COOL law.
“This is absolutely the wrong approach to address Congress’ recent repeal of the widely popular mandatory COOL law for beef and pork,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
The group’s letter points out that Congress repealed the popular COOL law “pursuant to a directive by the World Trade Organization (WTA).” R-CALF USA has long been critical of Congress’ capitulation to the WTO, calling it an example of how the U.S. has ceded far too much of its sovereignty to the international tribunal.
“We were dismayed when Congress repealed COOL for beef and pork. However, we believe a voluntary COOL law for beef and pork will be worse than no COOL law at all,” the letter states.
The group listed the following reasons why Congress should reject any attempt to create a voluntary COOL law for beef and pork:
1. “Establishing a stop-gap, voluntary COOL law will foreclose our industry’s opportunity to reestablish a workable mandatory COOL law for beef and pork in a new Congress. Thus, a voluntary COOL law will cause the U.S. cattle industry to suffer long-term harm.
2. “Because four of the most powerful COOL opponents – Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National Beef – also control approximately 85 percent of all fed cattle slaughter in the U.S., at best producers will have but a very small opportunity to voluntarily label beef and they will have to do so with the residual packers that control only about 15 percent of the packer market.
3. “Even though about 15 percent of the fed cattle market may potentially be controlled by COOL-friendly packers, most cow/calf producers and backgrounders and stockers sell their cattle to feedlot operators. And, once their cattle are sold, they have no means to cause any downstream buyers to associate the beef from the cattle they have sold with a COOL label.
4. “Indeed, of the 729,000 remaining cattle producers in the U.S., only 27,189, or less than 4 percent, are feedlot owners or managers that actually sell cattle directly to downstream packers. And, as already mentioned, 85 percent of their cattle is sold to anti-COOL packers. Therefore, a voluntary COOL law is likely to accord only a very small fraction of the nation’s cattle-producing population with any opportunity to label beef, while effectively denying COOL for all the rest.”
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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.