House votes to repeal COOL

by Jay Sjerven
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Bill seeks to avoid sanctions by Canada and Mexico.

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on June 10 passed legislation that would repeal mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken. The Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act (H.R. 2393) passed by a vote of 300 to 131.

“I am thankful for the support of my colleagues today in passing this common-sense, bipartisan bill that is a necessary targeted response to avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico,” said Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. “Two of our top trading partners announced earlier this month their intention to seek more than $3 billion in retaliatory sanctions against U.S. exports. This would extend far beyond the agriculture industry and would hurt nearly every sector of the U.S. economy. H.R. 2393 will prevent retaliation and bring the U.S. back into compliance, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act quickly on this urgent matter.”

Representative Jim Costa of California, ranking member of the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, said, “Today’s passage of the COOL Amendments Act is a critical step toward ensuring that the United States is no longer burdened by a law that harms our economy and our nation’s beef, pork, and poultry producers. California exports billions of dollars of commodities and manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico, many of which are produced in the San Joaquin Valley. The tariff retaliations will cost California more than $1 billion, inflicting a devastating blow to the state’s economic well-being. Country-of-origin labeling is a very real problem that requires a legislative fix. The COOL Amendments Act will put the U.S. back in compliance with its international trade obligations and stop trade retaliations by two of the nation’s top export partners.”

A contrary note was sounded on the House floor before the vote by Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, ranking member on Agriculture, who said, “Rushing a COOL repeal bill through the House is not the way to address the potential retaliation stemming from the World Trade Organization ruling. There are several steps that need to happen, including determining the actual economic harm caused by COOL, before retaliation could take place. Canada’s claims are unfounded, as studies show little if any economic harm from COOL. We do need to address this issue, and I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a reasonable solution that works for both farmers and consumers.”
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