Current Edition

current edition


Casper – On May 13, 2002 the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, known as the 2002 Farm Bill, became law. One of its many provisions required country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities and peanuts.
    However, on Jan. 27, 2004 Public Law 108-199 delayed implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until Sept. 30, 2006. On Nov. 10, 2005, Public Law 109-97 delayed implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until Sept. 30, 2008.
    Now it’s 2008 and mandatory COOL is officially scheduled, as of July 29, to take effect Sept. 30. The 2008 Farm Bill expands the list of covered commodities to include chicken, goat meat, ginseng, pecans and macadamia nuts.
    Commodities covered under COOL must be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin. However, they are excluded from mandatory COOL if they are an ingredient in a processed food item.
    USDA has also revised the definition of a processed food item so that items derived from a covered commodity that has undergone a physical or chemical change (e.g., cooking, curing, smoking) or that has been combined with other covered commodities or other substantive food components (e.g., chocolate, breading, tomato sauce) are excluded from COOL labeling.
    “With the increase in food safety concerns, the source of our food is a much greater concern now than in the past,” says R-CALF Region IV Vice President Randy Stevenson of Wheatland. Although foodservice is not currently included in the rules, he thinks it will soon follow, either of its own accord or by requirement.
    “COOL is going to keep the spotlight on the origin of food. I think price is of a concern, but I think, when it comes to food, that any mother’s number one concern is safety,” continues Stevenson.
    Although Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton says COOL is not primarily a food safety issue, he does agree it will help highlight those countries with poor track records. “It’ll give the consumer the opportunity to not buy from that country, and from that standpoint I think it’ll inspire producers and processors in that country to be more diligent,” he says.
    “We’ve been trying to get COOL for 10 years now, and I think the sheep industry will be happier with a more level playing field,” says Kemmerer rancher and Wyoming Wool Growers Association President Dave Julian. “Our government just gave us another predator and took away the right to protect our property, while in New Zealand you can’t even import a predator. Because of that they’re miles ahead of us right now in raising lambs. I think COOL is a good thing.”
    “Our focus now is on how best to implement COOL in a manner that provides maximum benefit and minimal disruption to our ranchers,” says National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Andy Groseta in a released statement. “NCBA will continue to work on behalf of our cattlemen to put in place an effective and accurate labeling system. Additionally, we will be leading the effort to educate producers on how to comply with the new rule.”
    Few people have voiced concern over the current COOL regulations becoming too cumbersome to producers. “Producers will have to have a record of the animal’s origin when it’s sold, and the USDA will audit to see if a producer does have the records to prove the animal was born and raised in the U.S,” says Hamilton, adding that calving or lambing records and brand inspections will suffice.
    “I hope consumers choose our U.S. product, because when we have lamb chops next to a New Zealand or Australian product, ours is better to begin with,” says Julian. “It behooves all of us, as producers, to market a product the consumer wants and not just rely on the U.S. label. I think we’re already there with the U.S. lamb, because it is a superior product over New Zealand’s.”
    “Consumers know high quality and great taste is a trademark of American beef, and we look forward to showcasing that quality when they’re shopping for our products,” says Groseta.
    “If we have an opportunity to have a label for U.S. beef we’ll have to show the consumer why they should buy it,” says Hamilton. “I think it’s something that can be done, but I think there will be other countries doing it as well. We need to point out the U.S. produces a good product, and we also have to be careful as producers that we don’t let an inferior product slip into the supply. When a consumer buys a U.S. beef product and can’t cut it with a knife, that has consequences as well.”
    “I’m hopeful this doesn’t result in a lot of additional paperwork, but I’ve dealt with bureaucrats and regulations that start simple but can snowball and become cumbersome,” says Hamilton of its effect on livestock producers.
    The full text of the interim final rule was published in the Aug. 1 Federal Register. Copies of the interim final rule and additional information can be found at: Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
On March 23 the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its decision to appeal the Dispute Settlement Panel’s ruling issued in November 2011 against the U.S. country of origin (COOL) law.
    While the Dispute Panel’s findings took issue with certain implementation rules, the panel did affirm the right of the U.S. to label food products with country of origin.
    U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and Tim Johnson, (D-SD), applauded the decision to file an appeal, saying they see the move as an effort to ensure the law is implemented as intended, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) agrees.
    “We disagree with the panel’s assessment that the law offers less favorable treatment to meat products imported from Canada and Mexico, and USCA membership feels strongly that those aspects of the ruling should be re-examined by a higher authority,” said USCA President Jon Wooster in response to the news.
    “Recent reports show that exchange rates have affected trade flows in beef and cattle from Canada,” continued Wooster. “The CME Group published an analysis titled ‘Feeder Cattle From Mexico Aid U.S. Supplies’ on March 21, 2012. This analysis provides evidence that COOL is not a deterrent to imports. According to the report, in 2011 the U.S. imported about 1.4 million head of feeder cattle from Mexico, up about 190,000 head or 15 percent more than the year prior. It’s notable that neither Canada or Mexico have referenced this fact in the COOL debate.”
    “The USTR has a strong appeals case, and it is USCA’s intention to support the appeal,” noted Wooster.
    USCA also supports efforts by Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Mike Enzi, along with 17 other U.S. Senators who sent a letter last fall urging the USTR to appeal the ruling and to continue supporting the consumers’ right to labeling.
    R-CALF USA, a long-time supporter of mandatory COOL, said they are thankful the USTR chose to defend the COOL law, which the organization refers to as “constitutionally passed.”
    “We’re in a no-win situation regarding this frontal attack on our COOL law because our nation should not tolerate for an instant a foreign entity’s efforts to undermine our constitutionally-passed domestic laws in the first place,” said R-CALF USA Region VI Director and COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz.
Appeal sparks NCBA
    However, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has issued a statement expressing concerns that the appeal will do more harm than good.
    “We are very disappointed in this decision. Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardizes our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef,” said NCBA vice president Bob McCann. “An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources. This appeal will do nothing but escalate tension with our valuable trade partners and will prolong an issue that could be resolved quickly. We should be working toward a solution instead of creating a bigger problem.
    “NCBA will engage with Canada and Mexico to prevent any retaliatory action that could occur from this unfortunate decision made by the U.S. government. Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners, but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines.”
    Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

COOL background
    The Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule makes it mandatory for grocers to label where their beef, pork, chicken and ground beef originate. Animals born, raised, and processed in the U.S. can only be labeled as U.S. origin. Meat from other countries must be labeled a mixed origin product.
    The mandatory version of COOL went into effect in March 2009. Six months later, Canada filed a complaint with WTO, and Mexico quickly followed suit. The two countries’ trade officials said cattle and hog exports dropped sharply, and argued that U.S. mandatory COOL amounted to an illegal, non-tariff trade barrier.
    U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., sent a letter in December 2011 with 17 other Senators asking United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to appeal the decision of the WTO that ruled against the implementation of the U.S. COOL law. The law would require all imported goods to indicate the country in which the product originated and provides consumers with information about where their food comes from.
            On Nov. 18, 2011 a WTO Dispute Settlement Panel (DSP) ruled on complaints from Canada and Mexico. While the DSP ruled that the U.S. has the right to require COOL, it ruled that the labeling provides less favorable treatment to imported meat from Canada and Mexico. Johnson and Enzi worked together to write the original COOL law in 2002 and have worked tirelessly over the years to defend the law.