Grassley, Colleagues Press USTR to Appeal Country of Origin Labeling Ruling from WTO Print
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 19 December 2011 16:21

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the Obama administration to appeal a World Trade Organization panel decision that, while validating the U.S.’s authority to have Country Of Origin Labeling for meat products, strikes down the Country of Origin Labeling regulations which implement the law.  Grassley joined 18 senators to send a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

“Family farmers take pride in the fact that the crops they harvest make it to dinner tables around the world.  People want to know where the food on their tables comes from, and makes Country of Origin Labeling a no-brainer,” Grassley said.  “Nearly all products sold in the United States show where the product was made.  In fact, other countries label where their meat originated.  It’s completely legitimate for us to show if the meat we buy originated in the United States.”

The senators wrote in their letter, “We request that your agencies take appropriate actions to appeal the DSP’s ruling and to work to ensure that our COOL program both meets our international trade obligations while continuing to provide such information to consumers.”

From here, the panel decision will either be adopted by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body or the decision can be appealed to the WTO Appellate Body.

Grassley joined senators Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso of Wyoming, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jon Tester of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kent Conrad and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and John Thune of South Dakota in signing the letter.

Here’s a copy of the text of the letter.  A signed copy can be found here.

November 14, 2011

 

Secretary Tom Vilsack                        Ambassador Ron Kirk

U.S. Department of Agriculture                    Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

1400 Independence Ave., SW                             600 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20250                          Washington, DC 20508

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Kirk:

 

We write regarding the November 18, 2011, World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Panel (DSP) finding affirming arguments made by Canada and Mexico over the implementation of the United States Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law.  The DSP validated the statutory authority for the United States to require such labeling; however, the panel also found that the manner in which the program was implemented treats cattle and hogs from those countries less favorably than U.S.-origin livestock.  While we are pleased that the DSP affirmed our right to require such labeling, we are concerned about the impact that the DSP’s ruling will have on our ability to continue providing such information to consumers.

 

As you are aware, included in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) was a common sense plan for implementing a food labeling program to provide consumers with information about the origins of the food they purchase.  It was the intention of Congress in developing this provision that such labeling would be nondiscriminatory in its treatment of imported products by requiring the labeling of both domestic as well as imported products.

 

With that goal in mind, we appreciate the thoughtful rulemaking process undertaken by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of USDA in developing the rule implementing COOL.  While we believe that improvements should have been made to the final rule, we believe that it appropriately establishes a labeling system which provides important and useful information to consumers while not placing an undue burden on the industry.  Additionally, we believe that the labeling system continues to provide the same opportunity for imported livestock to compete in the domestic marketplace as was the case prior to USDA’s implementation of COOL.

 

We appreciate the work you have done in defending both the COOL statute and its implementation before the WTO’s dispute settlement proceedings.  As you know, many of our major trading partners, including Canada and Mexico, themselves impose their own country of origin labeling requirements for imported meats.  As such, it is clear that it is within our authority under our WTO obligations to implement such a program.

 

We request that your agencies take appropriate actions to appeal the DSP’s ruling and to work to ensure that our COOL program both meets our international trade obligations while continuing to provide such information to consumers.  We appreciate your attention to this matter, and we look forward to working with you moving forward.