US COOL labelling moves one step closer
The US association, which represents major players such as Tyson Foods and Hormel Foods Corp, has actively campaigned against the introduction of COOL, which would require labels on meat to state where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. It has claimed the requirement would violate the United States Constitution on the grounds of free speech, and has used this in its legal armoury.
Other associations have also been fighting alongside AMI in a lawsuit filed last July: the American Association of Meat Processors, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Canadian Pork Council, the Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the North American Meat Association and the Southwest Meat Association.
In the complaint, the group of organisations has claimed that the final rule on COOL would compel speech in the form of "costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest".
It has also stated that the 2013 regulation exceeded the scope of the statutory mandate, because the statute does not permit detailed labelling requirements of the type the final rule would require, and that it would place a significant burden on the industry without any identifiable benefit.
James H Hodges, interim president and chief executive of the AMI, said: "The court’s decision today is disappointing. We have maintained all along that the country of origin rule harms livestock producers and the industry and affords little benefit to consumers. This decision will perpetuate those harms."
At the US National Cattlemen's Beef Association conference today, Canadian agriculture minister Gerry Ritz stressed the importance of ending discrimination against Canadian cattle and hogs under mandatory COOL, and emphasised the increasing view that it's harming farmers and industry in the US and Canada.
He said that should Canada prevail in the compliance proceedings, as expected, the government would seek authorisation from the World Trade Organization to impose retaliatory tariffs on US imports.
Ritz said: "With the full support and active engagement of Canadian and U.S. industry, our government will continue to fight against this protectionist policy which is hurting producers and consumers alike. We will continue to use whatever tools necessary to achieve a fair resolution of this issue so that our livestock sectors on both sides of the border can realize their true economic potential."
The legislation is an update of the 2009 version issued by the USDA.