On Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, the WTO ruled against the U.S. on Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) stating that the labeling rules unfairly discriminate against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products; however, it was not found that COOL was non-compliant with World Trade Organization (WTO) standards, but that there are concerns about its current implementation. Consumers want to know and have a right to know where their food comes from. COOL provides this right. COOL gives consumers the information they want and need so they can make an educated decision about the food they are buying and serving their family. It allows farmers and ranchers who are selling to domestic and local markets, the ability to build a stronger connection with their consumers. COOL provides transparency in the marketplace crucial to consumer knowledge.
Despite surveys showing nearly 90% of consumers support COOL, large corporations have continued to target the law for their own economic interests and to the determinant of consumer’s right to know. COOL has been under attack since its passage both domestically and abroad; however, efforts to declare COOL unconstitutional and contrary to U.S. statutes in U.S. Courts have repeatedly been unsuccessful.
The United States currently trades to over 60 countries that require COOL labeling. If labeling requirements are good enough for our trading partners, shouldn’t it be good enough for us? Despite the recent ruling, now is not the time to change or ditch the law completely. It is time to work with the USDA and other key stakeholders on how we can align COOL to WTO standards, while keeping the integrity of the law and its purpose in place. It only makes economic sense to favor our own domestic products that are of a higher standard and support American farmers and ranchers. The Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) has been a strong supporter of COOL from the beginning and will continue to support all efforts to enact COOL. The U.S. needs to appeal the WTO’s ruling in defense of rights of American citizens, and MFU looks forward to working with the USDA and other key stakeholders on a conclusion that is positive both for famers and for consumers.
Minnesota Farmers Union President