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R-CALF USA Asks House to Restore Meat Labeling in USMCA
South Dakota Ag Connection - 07/16/2019

In a letter sent Monday to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CALF USA asks that their approval of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) be contingent upon the restoration of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef.

The letter explains that mandatory COOL is the only means by which U.S. cattle producers can offer consumers a choice to purchase the best beef in the world produced under the more stringent U.S. health, safety and environmental standards by American cattle producers, or to purchase beef produced under lesser standards in foreign countries.

"Without mandatory COOL, importers source cheaper imported beef from over 20 foreign countries and they source live cattle from Canada and Mexico. They then can offer all of this cheaper-sourced beef to consumers as if it were produced by American farmers and ranchers. This occurs because the 2015 repeal of the COOL law for beef and pork eliminated the requirement that all imported beef retain its foreign label through retail sale. And, because current law allows all beef that is processed in a U.S.-based packing plant to bear a 'Product of U.S.A.' label," the letter states.

It also explains that including COOL in the USMCA eliminates the threat of sanctions by the World Trade Organization (WTO) because once Canada and Mexico sign an agreement that includes COOL, neither country can reignite their WTO challenge. The group further states that because the WTO only criticized the labeling of beef derived from imported cattle, and all of those imported cattle come from Canada and Mexico, no other country would have standing to complain about the COOL law.

The letter also states that U.S. trade negotiators were unduly influenced to omit COOL from the negotiations by the powerful beef importers, who the group states are making windfall profits from selling cheaper, undifferentiated imports to unsuspecting consumers and who want to continue doing so.

The group insists it "should be a fundamental right for all Americans to know under which country's food safety regime their food was produced. Today, for beef and pork, American consumers cannot obtain that information even if they ask and American cattle producers have no means to cause beef purveyors to label their USA product. American consumers and cattle producers are reliant upon Congress to rectify this injustice."

In conclusion, R-CALF USA states it urges Congress to condition its approval of the new USMCA on the restoration of mandatory COOL for beef so U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers can begin to compete in their own marketplace and U.S. consumers can begin supporting the American economy by choosing to buy American beef.

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