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Senate Ag Committee Examines COOL

On June 25, the Senate Agriculture Committee conducted a hearing to examine country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for meat. Witness testimony and other details from the hearing are available from the committee’s website.

In response to the WTO ruling finding U.S. COOL requirements for beef and pork to be out of compliance international trade obligations, the House of Representatives has approved legislation (H.R. 2393) that fully repeals COOL requirements for beef, pork and chicken. Most witnesses appearing before the committee urged the Senate to take the same action, in order to avoid retaliatory measures that could be imposed later this year by Canada and Mexico. Canada is seeking WTO authorization for about $2.4 billion in retaliatory tariffs and Mexico is seeking $653 million.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), ranking member of the committee, has distributed draft legislation that would strike mandatory COOL requirements for beef and pork, but still require that the COOL verification criteria currently in the statute be met if a retailer voluntarily designates the product’s country-of-origin. Labeling requirements for ground beef and pork would remain in place under the Stabenow proposal. Officials from Canada and Mexico submitted letters (see links) to the committee emphasizing that they will follow through with WTO-sanctioned retaliation unless COOL requirements are completely repealed.