November 20, 2014

November 20, 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Country of origin labeling (COOL) violates the trade rules of the World Trade Organization. WTO has ruled, for the second time, that the legislation which became law in 2002 as part of our farm bill is illegal and discriminates against Mexico and Canada. I met with two representatives of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association this week, and they expressed their disapproval of the law.

The law requires that meat labels must specify where the animal has been. Think about it this way. The label could read: “Born in U.S. – fed in Canada – slaughtered in U.S.” Or maybe: “Born in Canada – fed in U.S. – slaughtered in U.S.” Our processing plants cannot afford to separate each animal coming in for slaughter and processing. But the law requires this because it is the only way to inform the consumer where the pig or cow has been throughout their life.

It is a bad law and always has been. It can’t be fixed. We should get rid of it.

Last week at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters meeting, which I attended, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack said, “I can tell you that we do not think there is a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law and to satisfy WTO.” COOL is a “barrier to trade” and discriminates against meat imports.

The U.S. still has the right to appeal the WTO decision. An appeal will not work. Canada and Mexico are our closest neighbors and allies. They are two of our biggest trading partners. Most of our meat companies and farm organizations oppose COOL.

Since the Secretary does not think he can change the COOL regulation to satisfy WTO, I would like to see USDA refuse to enforce COOL until the Congress rewrites it or gets rid of it entirely. If we go down this path of leaving COOL in place, at some point, Canada and Mexico will be authorized to impose huge tariffs on our exports to their countries. It will cost us billions of dollars in farm exports. Why take the risk?

I’ve made my case.

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Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block in Washington, D.C