Even though mandatory country of origin labeling (mCOOL) by the U.S. has been deemed non-compliant with America’s trade obligations at the World Trade Organization, there is a faction that still wants to see the rule brought back.
Similar to the Canadian system, when a congressional session ends, bills that have not yet passed “die.” Now, in a new congress, bills must be introduced again, often with only slight changes to former versions.
As Kent Bacus, executive director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) explains, the current American Beef Labelling Act is just such a bill. This new bill is a repackaging of a similar bill introduced last year that would see mCOOL re-introduced.
Specifically, the bill requires that the U.S. trade representative and U.S. department of agriculture find a trade-compliant way to introduce mCOOL within six months of the bill’s passing. Failure to do so results in the requirement becoming law anyway; language, Bacus says, that just sets it up for failure.
Bacus adds that this bill is not supported by the beef industry, and instead is seen as a messaging piece. There is the potential for the mCOOL language to end up in another bill, as is sometimes a tactic to move less popular legislation through. It could spell real trouble if the language were added to must-pass legislation, i.e the Farm Bill or a spending bill.
While trade-compliance can be brushed off by some, Bacus says that any labeling rules must be United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA)-compliant. From NCBA’s perspective, differentiation isn’t a bad thing, however product should be produced through verified programs, for example.
“We can’t afford to have yesterday’s fight with today’s market,” Bacus says.
Check out the full conversation between Bacus and RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney, at NCBA, held at New Orleans, Louisiana:
Check out more coverage of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention here!
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