WASHINGTON – Call it protectionist, burdensome or just plain useless, stakeholders in the meat and poultry industry will be glad to call mandatory country of origin labeling gone.

Language repealing COOL was added to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, or the Omnibus bill. Lawmakers added the repeal to avoid incurring $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico. The World Trade Organization recently ruled against US COOL policy, and authorized Canada and Mexico to impose the tariffs. 

Mike Brown, National Chicken Council
Mike Brown, CEO, National Chicken Council

“The National Chicken Council is pleased that Congress is poised to repeal the mandatory country-of-origin labeling regulations for beef and pork, which have twice been deemed illegal by the WTO,” NCC President Mike Brown said in a statement. “The retaliatory tariffs awarded by the WTO to Mexico and Canada totaling over $1 billion should not now be levied against any of our chicken and fowl products, or any other American goods. This is a victory for all US agricultural products and a win-win for US chicken producers and consumers. When at the meat case, consumers seeking chicken made in the USA can continue to readily identify these products of American origin.”

The North American Meat Institute urged Congress to pass the omnibus quickly, saying the impact of the COOL dispute extended beyond agriculture. In June 2013, Canada released a list of 38 commodities that could be targeted for retaliatory trade duties. The list included a broad range of items. 

Barry Carpenter, North American Meat Institute
Barry Carpenter, CEO, North American Meat Institute

“We are enormously grateful that lawmakers have included language in the Omnibus bill to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling for certain meat products,” Barry Carpenter, NAMI CEO, said in a statement. “Our elected leaders recognize the need for the United States to live up to its international trade obligations. They also know that failing to repeal the provisions that triggered a protracted World Trade Organization (WTO) battle between the US and its two most important trading partners, Canada and Mexico, has invited more than $1 billion in painful retaliatory tariffs.

“This Congressional action is an important step in avoiding the financial harm so many industries will incur once Canada and Mexico initiate the tariffs sanctioned by the WTO’s ruling earlier this month,” Carpenter said.

The deal reached Dec. 15 on taxes and spending for fiscal year 2016 was expected to be voted on and approved by the Senate and House of Representatives on Dec. 18, before lawmakers return home for the holidays.