A lawsuit filed by meat industry trade groups, including the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), against USDA’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) scheme will be heard May 19 by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The en banc hearing – all 11 judges presiding – comes after a three-judge panel of the same court in March ruled against NPPC, the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations.
The groups had argued – and are arguing – that, in promulgating the 2013 rule, the Agriculture Secretary exceeded the authority granted by Congress in the COOL statute and that the rule violates the First Amendment by compelling speech – labeling of meat.
The case was on appeal from a U.S. District Court. USDA proposed the latest iteration of the rule in March 2013 after a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel in 2011 ruled in response to a complaint by Canada and Mexico that the original (2008) COOL requirements violated the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade agreement.
Despite that ruling, USDA made the 2013 COOL requirements even more complex and discriminatory against foreign meat and livestock. Canada and Mexico filed WTO cases against that rule.
The international trade body is expected to issue a decision on the complaints in June or July.
Should the labeling rule not be compliant, Canada and Mexico would be allowed to impose retaliatory tariffs on a host of U.S. products, including pork.