The American Soybean Association (ASA) has again called for a coordinated approach to fix the United States’ mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) rule for imported meat. ASA’s call comes in light of a ruling Monday from the World Trade Organization Appellate Body that determined the COOL rule gives domestic producers an unfair advantage over importers from Canada and Mexico. ASA President Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, underscored the association’s concerns and indicated that ASA will support new legislation to repeal COOL from House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway:
“This most recent ruling from the WTO is hardly a surprise, and reinforces our long-held contention that we’ve got to find a fix for COOL. The rule is an unworkable one, and has the potential to create significant problems, both for the livestock industry that represents our number one customer, and for soybean farmers directly, should Canada and Mexico opt to place retaliatory tariffs on American soy. Beyond these most immediate impacts, we remain concerned about the impact of this issue on our trading relationships.
“ASA has consistently opposed the COOL program. In the wake of the WTO's fourth ruling against COOL, we support legislation to repeal the program, including the bill introduced yesterday by House Agriculture Committee chairman Conaway. Recognizing that legislation to repeal or make COOL compliant with U.S. WTO obligations could take significant time, we call on the Administration to ask the WTO for 60-day arbitration with the governments of Canada and Mexico to prevent more immediate retaliatory tariffs on imports, potentially including soybeans and soy and livestock products. We also call on Congress to look at alternative measures for making COOL WTO-compliant.
“Our primary and most pressing concern is avoiding retaliation. As producers of the nation’s leading farm export, soybean farmers have a huge stake in trade partnerships that are robust and mutually beneficial. With regard to COOL, we have to take every step to ensure that American policies are crafted in such a way that avoids retaliatory steps from our trading partners. All parties, from Congress to USDA to our counterparts in foreign markets, must come to the table and establish a solution that will help to keep the pathways of global trade free and open.”