WASHINGTON, DC -- This morning, the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing on meat labeling requirements, in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule took center stage. The World Trade Organization (WTO) will soon issue a ruling on whether the current version of the COOL regulation is consistent with WTO rules.
Canada and Mexico brought this and previous complaints and are seeking to retaliate against imports from the United States because of COOL, which they claim unfairly discriminates against muscle cuts of meat in the U.S. market from their respective countries. Canada has proposed retaliating by introducing a 100 percent tariff on a long list of agricultural and manufactured products from the United States, including rice. Mexico has not gone public with its plans for retaliation, though it is considered likely to be similar to Canada's. These retaliations could occur as soon as late 2015.
Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer opened the hearing by noting that it "gives [Congress] an opportunity to establish a record [on COOL]... I would encourage the witnesses to suggest how we might go forward with legislation."
Testifying in the hearing were John P. Weber, National Pork Producers Council; Christopher Wenk, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union; Linda Dempsey, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM); Tom LaFaille, Wine Institute; Alison Bodor, National Confectioners Association; and Michael T. Smith, Harris Ranch Company in California.
Many of the questions from subcommittee members focused on what retaliations could mean for American consumers. The increased tariffs may prompt producers of goods in the U.S. to pass along the costs to the consumer, as some witnesses testified. Wenk, of the Chamber of Commerce, also suggested a loss of jobs due to the retaliations.
USA Rice has submitted written testimony to the subcommittee, which will go on record for the hearing. USA Rice is a member of the COOL Reform Coalition, co-chaired by the NAM and the Chamber, which endorses repealing the portions of COOL that violate our international trade obligation.
Links to opening statements and witness testimony from today's hearing can be found here.
Contact: Kristen Dayton (703) 236-1464