WASHINGTON – The National Cattlemen's Association (NCBA) and other groups have said they will oppose the farm bill agreed upon by a conference committee of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The bill leaves intact revised country-of-origin-labeling (COOL), which requires meat packers to label muscle cuts of meat with information about where each of the production steps occurred. COOL opponents have argued that the regulation will imposed added costs upon the meat industry and interferes with free trade laws. But supporters of the regulation say consumers have a right to know the origins of the meat products they buy.
In a letter to members of Congress, NCBA said it would oppose the farm bill because the legislation currently does not address the priorities of its members.
“We are calling on Congress to fix the mistakes they have made, mistakes that are costing cattlemen and women money every day,” said Scott George, NCBA president. “Mistakes like Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling, which has already resulted in steep discounts to our producers and caused prejudice against our largest trading partners. This program was created without the consent of producers and has been a failure by every measure.
“We are disappointed in all members of Congress and especially the members of the Conference Committee for allowing this process to go this far without a solution,” George added. “Failure to fix MCOOL at this juncture will lead to retaliatory tariffs on a host of commodities and it is only a matter of time before the World Trade Organization rules in favor of Canada and Mexico. Once that happens, producers will realize the full costs of this failed legislation.
Opponents of COOL have been fighting the regulation in US courts and at the World Trade Organization. A public hearing on COOL is set for Feb. 18-19 in Geneva. Canada and Mexico have threatened retaliatory tariffs if the WTO rules against COOL. Mexico announced it would suspend preferential tariffs for a variety of produce items, meat, dairy products and other commodities. In June 2013, Canada released a list of 38 commodities that could be targeted for retaliatory trade duties.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 will be submitted to the full Senate and House for votes. If the measure passes both houses of Congress, it will be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.