COOL to Washington DC:

Sep 14, 2021

The Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (M-COOL) boomerang is baaaaaack.

The American Beef Labeling Act, championed by Senators John Thune (South Dakota) and Jon Tester (Montana), will be formally introduced next week.

Enter: the words “beef” and “ground beef” in current M-COOL laws. After a nice 12-month delay, of course, which would allow the U.S. Trade Representative and Ag Secretary time to pencil out implementation within the World Trade Organization rules.

Flashback: Beef COOL has been on the menu for quite some time; it was included in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills and became law in 2009. Canada and Mexico then took their unfair trade advantage complaint to the WTO, who authorized retaliatory tariffs on American goods. In 2015, Congress repealed M-COOL to avoid those pesky tariffs.

Soundbite: “Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers,” Thune said. “Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA.”

Win-win: Producer groups like the South Dakota Stockgrowers, R-CALF, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association have noted support for defining what “U.S. beef” really means. COVID disruptions have led some producers to double down on the belief that COOL could provide a path to demand for U.S.-produced cattle.