Lawmakers add COOL repeal to government funding bill

by Erica Shaffer
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COOL opponents said repeal will prevent implementation of $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs.

WASHINGTON –  The United States’ country of origin labeling law moved closer to repeal following the announcement that language repealing COOL was added to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, or the Omnibus bill.

The World Trade Organization ruled against US COOL policy, and authorized Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory tariffs of $1 billion. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he hoped the Senate could pass the bill in time to prevent retaliation by Canada and Mexico.

“For several years now, the writing has been on the wall that US COOL requirements for meat were doomed at the WTO,” Roberts said in a statement. “Since its inception, I have warned that retaliation was coming, and I’m pleased American agriculture and businesses will escape these tariffs. 

US Sen. Pat Roberts
US Sen. Pat Roberts

“I have actively opposed COOL from the beginning, in large part due to these very trade ramifications, offering legislation to repeal the damaging law,” he added. “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway swiftly led the House to approve repeal, and now I hope the Senate can pass this legislation in time to avoid devastating tariffs. With passage, American farmers, ranchers and small businesses will finally get the certainty they deserve from unnecessary trade retaliation.”

In June, the US House of Representatives voted 300 to 131 in favor of repealing COOL.

Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) said he was pleased to see language repealing COOL added to the Omnibus bill, and thanked Roberts for pushing the language through.

“By including this language, we will be back in compliance with our WTO obligations, avoid more than $1 billion in retaliation from Canada and Mexico, and prevent damages to our relationships with two of our top trade partners,” Conaway said in a statement.

Supporters of COOL strongly opposed the addition of COOL repeal to the Omnibus. The National Farmers Union said the language went beyond beef to ground beef and ground pork, which were found to be trade compliant.

“Clearly this language was produced by long-time COOL opponents who legislated in the dark of the night under the guise of solving an issue, when really their intentions completely undermine the will of American consumers and producers,” Roger Johnson, NFU president. “NFU is furious that yet again the dysfunction of Congress has enabled this to happen.”

In a last-ditch effort to save COOL, R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) sent letters to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton urging them to defend mandatory COOL.

“We could not be more disappointed in Congress and this Administration for their utter failure to stand up to the unaccountable WTO in defense of our mandatory COOL law,” Bill Bullard, R-CALF CEO, said in a statement. The group has argued that domestic prices for cattle dropped after the House of Representatives voted to repeal COOL in June costing ranchers up to $500 per head in losses.

“If one or more of these presidential hopefuls begins talking about the absurdity of kowtowing to the multinational meatpackers by surrendering our mandatory COOL law, we think the public will become sufficiently outraged to call their members of Congress before it’s too late,” Bullard said.

R-CALF also sent letters via email to presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Dr. Ben Carson.

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