American senators pushing for mCOOL, again

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Four U.S. senators are pushing, once again, for some form of mandatory country-of-origin labelling (mCOOL) of beef.

Earlier this week, on September 8, two Republican and two Democrat senators announced a bill entitled the American Beef Labeling Act, which would require the U.S. Trade Representative to develop World Trade Organization-compliant mCOOL within a year of the bill passing.

Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced the bill.

“Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a ‘product of the USA’ label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that,” says Thune.

Thune and Booker are members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Booker, some may recognize, supported a bill earlier that would close so-called confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the States.

In an email to RealAgriculture, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) says, “While this mCOOL labeling bill is separate from the USDA labeling review currently being undertaken to clarify the existing voluntary Product of USA label, CCA notes that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has repeatedly stressed the need for any new origin labeling requirement to be consistent with U.S. WTO obligations.”

If mCOOL or a similar measure is adopted by the U.S., CCA says Canada is authorized to impose retaliatory tariffs up to $1 billion, with the burden on the U.S. to go to the WTO to argue that the new measure is compliant, all the while with the retaliatory tariffs in place.

The CCA says it continues to work with the Government of Canada and American stakeholders to ensure recognition and avoidance of interruption to the integrated North American beef system through all labelling efforts.

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