Beef Industry divided on COOL Appeal Decision


by Jacqui Fatka


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the request for a rehearing by the appeals court's three-judge panel on a motion for preliminary injunction to block implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s May 2013 final rule on country-of-origin labeling.

The petition was sought by the American Meat Institute (AMI), the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), and seven other foreign and domestic meat industry trade groups in a lawsuit first filed in 2013, shortly after the final rule was introduced.

In the complaint, AMI and the meat and livestock organizations explained that the final rule violates the United States Constitution by compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest. They also explained that the 2013 regulation exceeds the scope of the statutory mandate, because the statute does not permit the kind of detailed and onerous labeling requirements the final rule puts in place, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious, because it imposes vast burdens on the industry with little to no countervailing benefit.

Supporters of COOL said the appeals denial “effectively establishes that the COOL law is constitutional, that Congress had the authority to pass COOL, and that implementing regulations for COOL are in compliance with the COOL statute.”

In a statement, AMI expressed disappointment in the ruling. “We continue to maintain that the country of origin rule harms livestock producers and the industry and provides little benefit to consumers.  The ban on commingling, which was the subject of this rehearing request, is a key component that made the 2013 rule even more onerous and burdensome than the previous rule, as was confirmed by the World Trade Organization’s recent report,” said AMI interim president and chief executive officer James H. Hodges. “The court’s refusal to rehear our motion will allow those harms to continue. We will evaluate our options.”

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson urged the multinational meat industry to “drop the senseless litigation and allow the law to be enforced.”

R-CALF USA COOL Committee chair Mike Schultz said, “Congress should pay special heed to these multiple U.S. court decisions that clearly establish that U.S. cattle producers and U.S. consumers have every right to have beef, pork and chicken accurately labeled as to their country of origin.”

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Posted by Jami Howell

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