Senate introduces voluntary COOL bill.

  • As previously covered on this blog, Congress has been working to resolve the controversy surrounding country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for meat products.  In the wake of a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that mandatory COOL requirements unfairly discriminate against meat imports — and the WTO’s subsequent rejection of the U.S. appeal of that decision — Congress must repeal or significantly amend the COOL requirements to mitigate exposure to trade sanctions from Canada and Mexico.  In June, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the COOL requirements, but the Senate has not taken further action.
  • On July 23, 2015, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) introduced a bill that would institute a voluntary COOL regime in place of the mandatory requirements.  The bill, S.1844, would establish a voluntary “Product of the U.S.” label for meat and poultry products from animals that are born, raised, and harvested in the United States.
  • At a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the COOL requirements, various stakeholders appeared to support voluntary labeling as long as it is “WTO-compliant.”  Now it remains to be seen whether, and how quickly, Congress will act on this legislation.