The issue of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) was raised by a number of members during the farm bill conference. Various conferees stated the need to either “kill” the program or make it WTO compliant.
Members mentioned the program is not working, the potential retaliation from Canada and Mexico, and the concern of plants closing along the borders. A letter signed by 69 companies and associations was sent to the farm bill conference committee asking that the conference “develop a WTO-compliant solution to the COOL law that will meet WTO guidelines while protecting thousands of American jobs from the impacts of retaliation.”
The letter reminded the conferees that if the WTO rules in favor of Canada and Mexico, those countries will be able to retaliate against U.S. products through retaliatory tariffs that will “stop exports and kill jobs.” Besides a number of agricultural organizations signing the letter, there were a number of nonagricultural groups including the American Beverage Association, Emergency Committee for American Trade, Herbalife, Mars, Inc., National Association of Manufacturers, National Foreign Trade Council and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The National Farmers Union, Consumer Federation of America, American Sheep Industry, and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association said, “The agribusiness and packer-producer groups are merely trying to scare members of Congress into changing the law to benefit their bottom lines.”