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COOL Resurfaces


With a deliberate denial of recent history, beef state legislators are urging reintroduction of country-of-origin labeling.  Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) urges reintroduction of mandatory labeling (MCOOL) to be incorporated into the “next Farm Bill.” Whether Senator Rounds intends this to be adopted for the long-delayed 2023 Farm Bill or the subsequent 2027 version was not specified.


The 2002 Farm Bill included an MCOOL provision but this was repealed in 2015 after Canada and Mexico obtained a favorable decision from a World Trade Organization dispute panel resulting in mandatory concessions to be made to petitioners Canada and Mexico, our USMCA partners.


Senator Rounds pointed to fluctuation in markets for beef.  His representations obviously received support from R-CALF USA.  Rounds noted, “While cattle prices are currently on the rise, it is evident producers will again encounter market disruptions.  As farmers and ranchers deal with a volatile market, it is imperative that the Federal government provide a level playing field.”


In March 2024, USDA issued a Rule for a voluntary “Product of USA” label used for poultry, allowing, “Product derived from flocks hatched, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States.”  The voluntary claims will be introduced on January 1, 2026, unless opposed, as is expected, by Mexico and Canada.


Representations made by petitioners to the WTO confirmed interconnectivity of live cattle production between the three USMCA nations, limiting the application of MCOOL.


Segments of U.S. livestock production have adopted a self-serving approach to their respective red meat industries.  They demand independence from federal control on many aspects of production including identification of animals but at the same time look to the Government for legislative and financial protection.  This ambiguity influences beef and pork state legislators in establishing and implementing federal policy on production and trade.