Organizations take COOL to court

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – Nine organizations representing the meat and livestock industries in the United States, Canada and Mexico filed court documents seeking a preliminary injunction against the country-of-origin labeling rule. The groups filed the request with the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Plaintiffs include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations, which recently joined a lawsuit filed July 8.

In the injunction request, the groups argue that the final COOL rule violates the Constitution, exceeds the US Department of Agriculture's authority under the Agricultural Marketing Act, and "runs afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act.”

“The Final Rule violates the First Amendment because it compels commercial speech merely in service of satisfying the curiosity of “certain” consumers about all of the production steps involved in bringing meat to market,” the complaint states. “That interest is neither sufficient to justify compelled speech nor directly advanced by the agency’s labeling scheme du jour, and it is far outweighed by the onerous burdens imposed by the Final Rule. AMS has exceeded its statutory authority by adopting labeling requirements that contradict Congress’s own definition of the term “country of origin” and by impermissibly regulating producers’ and retailers’ primary conduct in preparing meat for retail sale. And the Final Rule is arbitrary and capricious because AMS’s justifications for the new regulations do not withstand scrutiny and because AMS unreasonably refused requests to delay implementation of those regulations."

Under the revised COOL regulation, meat packers must label muscle cuts of meat with information about where each of the production steps occurred. Additionally, the provisions bar the practice of commingling of meat from animals of different countries of origin.

The plaintiffs believe that they “are very likely to succeed on the merits and the Final Rule will likely be vacated. But if it is not enjoined in the meantime, the Final Rule will irreparably harm meat-industry participants. The plaintiffs are trade organizations that represent regulated entities facing immediate and substantial burdens and costs under the Final Rule.”
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