WTO Makes Ruling on COOL

Livestock groups come down on opposite sides on the ruling.

Published on: May 27, 2011

It's been reported that the World Trade Organization is moving against the U.S. consumer information law known as country-of-origin labeling or COOL. a panel appointed by the WTO has issued a preliminary ruling that COOL rules violates WTO trade standards. COOL requires U.S. food retailers to label foods, including beef, lamb, pork, fruits and vegetables with the information of where they come from.

R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz says American cattle farmers and ranchers support the law because it enables consumers to exercise choice in the marketplace. He says it also allows consumers to differentiate and select U.S.-grown beef from the growing volumes of imported beef sourced from over a dozen foreign countries.

However on the flip-side, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association supports the World Trade Organization's ruling on the nation's COOL Law. NCBA President Bill Donald says it was a bad idea from the beginning.

Canada and Mexico didn't want the COOL law to pass back in 2008, and both countries filed a formal complaint with the WTO shortly after the law went into effect. They stated the law violated international agreements. Reports this week suggest the WTO is siding with those foreign countries.

Donald says proponents of COOL have always believed restricting imports of Mexican and Canadian feeder cattle would decrease the supply of feeder cattle in the U.S., increasing the price of U.S. feeder cattle. However, he says the reality is that reducing the number of cattle in the marketplace reduces the infrastructure of the U.S. beef industry and everyone loses. He believes shrinking the size and scope of the cattle industry only serves to cripple producers and the industry for the future.

On the other side Schultz calls this move a wake-up call to every U.S. family. He says people have a right to know and want to know where their food comes from. He encourages people to call their legislators and voice their opinions on this issue.

The WTO plans to make the ruling public in September, and the U.S. then will have two months to decide whether or not to appeal the ruling.