In its continuing battle to block implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s May 2013 final rule on country-of-origin labeling (COOL), on Tuesday nine United States, Canadian and Mexican meat and livestock organizations filed their initial brief appealing a Sept. 11 decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denying a motion for a preliminary injunction.
Appellants include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations.
The industry’s brief argues that the trial court incorrectly accepted the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) argument, which was inconsistent with rationale offered by AMS in the final rule, that the new final rule “is to correct misleading speech and prevent consumer deception” that purportedly occurred because of requirements AMS imposed in its 2009 version of the rule.
“Even putting aside the absurdity of a government agency referring to itself as an agent of ‘deception,’ the District Court should have rejected AMS’s belated declaration because it was a plainly impermissible post hoc rationalization. Yet the District Court accepted it anyway,” the brief notes.
The appellants also contend that when the trial court accepted AMS’rationalization, it applied the wrong legal standard regarding the First Amendment and compelled speech because the mandated labels at issue are not voluntary deceptive advertising.
“There is no such voluntary misleading advertisement here; AMS is the source of the alleged ‘deception’,” the brief says. “No court has ever before applied lesser scrutiny for compelled speech in such circumstances.”
Because of these factors and the irreparable harm being done to the industry right now, the appellants argue the final rule should be enjoined.
The lawsuit to block implementation of the COOL rule was originally filed July 8, 2013 in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The original complaint is available here. A motion for preliminary injunction was filed July 26, 2013.
Read the rest of this report from the American Meat Institute on their web site, www.meatami.org.