Groups to appeal court ruling on COOL injunction

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – Groups representing US, Canadian and Mexican meat industry interests filed an initial brief as part of an appeal of a US District Court ruling denying a motion for a preliminary injunction against implementation of the US country-of-origin-labeling regulations (COOL).

In their legal brief, the groups argue that the court:

• applied the wrong standard regarding the First Amendment and compelled speech;
• incorrectly accepted the Agricultural Marketing Service's argument that the new final rule was aimed at correcting misleading speech and preventing consumer deception.

“Even putting aside the absurdity of a government agency referring to itself as an agent of ‘deception,’ the District Court should have rejected AMS’s belated declaration because it was a plainly impermissible post-hoc rationalization. Yet, the District Court accepted it anyway,” the brief notes.

In July, meat-industry groups sued USDA in US District Court to overturn COOL. The groups argued that the final COOL rule violates the Constitution's free-speech protections; exceeds USDA's authority under the Agricultural Marketing Act; and "runs afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act.” The groups requested an injunction while the lawsuit is pending. But in a Sept. 11 ruling, US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled the focus of the case was on compelled commercial speech, which is generally held to "less exacting constitutional standards".

The judge also said the USDA would likely prevail because arguments on the merits of the plaintiff's case favor the government.

Appellants 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.
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