Senators should take up Country-of-Origin Labeling repeal legislation before heading home for a month-long August break, a group of state pork producers associations and the National Pork Producers Council said in a letter sent to legislators Monday.
The COOL law requires meat, fish, shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and certain nuts to be labeled with the country where the animal/plant from which it was derived was born, raised and harvested.
Following a May World Trade Organization ruling that affirmed the COOL rule discriminates against Canadian and Mexican products, both countries may be allowed to place retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods going into their countries, thus creating a short timeline for action on COOL.
In its letter, NPPC and the state pork associations urged lawmakers "to introduce and pass legislation to repeal country of origin labeling requirements for pork, beef and poultry before the August recess. Without swift repeal, the Congress will imperil U.S. exports and jobs."
Canada has asked the WTO to authorize $3 billion (Canadian dollars, or about $2.4 billion U.S. dollars) a year in retaliatory tariffs against U.S. imports, and Mexico is seeking $713 million in retaliation.
Some senators have suggested making COOL voluntary, a proposal dismissed by the pork groups.
"At this point, if Congress were to change the labeling law, the WTO would not review such changes," the organizations said in their letter. "The only thing left for the WTO to do in the case is to determine the level of retaliation that Canada and Mexico can extract from the United States, whose day in court is over."
They pointed out that Canada and Mexico are insisting that they will not remove the retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products until there the meat labeling provisions of COOL are repealed.
The House in June approved H.R. 2393 to amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to repeal the meat labeling provisions. NPPC and the state pork associations are urging the Senate to take up that measure.