The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week granted a motion by the United States Cattlemen's Association, National Farmers Union, American Sheep Industry Association and Consumer Federation of America to intervene in a lawsuit filed July 8 regarding country of origin labeling.
The lawsuit contends that mandatory country of origin labeling – long a sticking point for trading partners Mexico and Canada – creates consumer bias and is unconstitutional. The USCA, NFU and intervening groups, however, say COOL is a benefit to consumers who want to know the origin of their food.
The USDA revised the COOL rule in May per a request from Canada and Mexico via the World Trade Organization. However Canada this week confirmed that the latest changes do not satisfy its previous requests and its trade and agriculture ministries will seek another WTO review.
The lawsuit, a matter separate from WTO negotiations and a dispute between meat interest groups, has been a back and forth since it was first filed, with COOL opponents in late July seeking an immediate court injunction to prevent COOL's further implementation. The COOL rule went into immediate effect when it was announced in May.
"We have filed briefs with the court presenting our opposition to the preliminary injunction motion filed by the plaintiffs," said Jon Wooster, USCA President. "The court has given plaintiffs an August 22 deadline to reply to our opposition to the preliminary injunction, and a hearing has been set for August 27."
According to Wooster, the court's order granting our motion to intervene makes clear that the groups can participate at the preliminary injunction hearing as well as in the remainder of the litigation.
While Wooster defended consumers' stake in the debate, he also made a case for producers.
"Providing consumers with accurate information on where an animal has been born and raised gives cow-calf operators, backgrounders and feedlots a chance to differentiate their product as indeed born, raised and slaughtered in the United States when the animal is processed in our country.
"A preliminary injunction, if granted, would further delay consumers having the type of information Congress has long wanted and that all of us who believe in COOL have been seeking through the regulatory process," he said.
Follow the COOL Rule action:
Canada Issues Formal COOL Challenge
COOL Advocates Ask to Intervene in Labeling Lawsuit
COOL Rule Opponents Seek Court Injunction
Meat Interests Take USDA To Court Over COOL Rule
Canada Poised To Retaliate on COOL Ruling
USDA Retains Country of Origin Labeling Requirement
COOL Ruled Non-Compliant With WTO Agreement