Some lawmakers are looking to revive the country-of-origin labeling requirement, known as COOL. Repealed three years ago, the law required beef and pork products to be labeled with their origin. Last month, 27 freshmen House Democrats sent a letter to Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging for reinstatement of the labeling requirement. The lawmakers believe that the House should not vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) until the administration also includes strong enforcement provisions for labor and the environment.
The letter from the Congress members states: “Consumers’ right to know about where and how their food is produced must also be protected. Mexico and Canada already have used trade rules to undermine the food labeling that America’s farmers and ranchers support; and the transparency that consumers demand. A final NAFTA package must restore the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) passed by Congress and affirmed by U.S. courts.”
COOL was originally put into effect in 2009 requiring beef and pork product labels to include where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. In 2015 the law was successfully challenged at the World Trade Organization by Mexico and Canada, who threatened to impose a combined $1.1 billion in annual retaliatory duties unless the labeling requirement was removed.
There have been varying opinions on the rule in the agriculture industry. The United States Cattlemen’s Association, the National Farmers Union, and the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund are among the organizations who have supported the law. Several groups that have been in opposition to the labeling requirement include the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the North American Meat Institute. Citing the tariff threat, Congress ultimately repealed the law in December 2015.
The reinstatement of the rule is considered to be a long shot by analysts, as Mexico has already approved USMCA and Canada has previously voiced opposition to the idea. The two countries argued against the original law, saying the labeling discouraged American meatpackers from purchasing their livestock and created an added cost burden on packers and retailers.