Cattlemen who were denied a legal challenge to current U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations say they hope President Trump will side with them and reinstate the regulations that were put in place in 2009. Other industry observers say such a possibility is a Hail Mary.
The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington in Spokane, granted summary judgement to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a lawsuit filed last year. The lawsuit, filed by R-CALF USA and the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW), alleged that USDA is required, but is failing to provide country-of-origin labeling on imported beef and pork. The suit named USDA and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as defendants.
Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson agreed with the plaintiffs that the government’s decision caused them financial harm, yet ruled in favor of the government saying the statute of limitations had run out, and that Congress had clearly intended to have the labeling end.
“The fact that the court agreed with us that independent pork and beef producers are harmed by COOL makes it even clearer that the Trump Administration and Congress must act now to protect them,” said David Muraskin, lead counsel for R-CALF in the suit. “This movement has been gaining ground outside of court, and we expect it to continue doing so despite this ruling.”
The court determined that the cattle producers were time-barred from prevailing in their case because the regulations that allowed the removal of COOL labels on imported beef was promulgated in 1989 and the statute of limitations expired in 1995. The court did not agree with the cattle producers that the clock should have been reset after the 2016 repeal of the COOL for beef.
Moreover, the court found that Congress’ act of repealing COOL for beef signified its clear intent to allow imported beef to be sold to consumers without COOL markings.
“President Trump now has the opportunity to immediately reinstate COOL in his ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA as well as by initiating a rulemaking within USDA to require imported beef to bear its foreign marking through retail sale, just as the COOL rule effectively did from 2009 through 2015,” said R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard.
However, support for re-instating COOL is not universal throughout the industry. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) have opposed COOL since it was first introduced.
“The North American Meat Institute is pleased” with this week’s ruling in favor of USDA, Mark Dopp, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Scientific Affairs/General Counsel told Drovers in an email. “The court’s order makes clear that, the complaint was not only barred by the statute of limitations regarding the imported products rule promulgated in 1989, even if that had not been the case both the 1989 rule and 2016 rule removing beef and pork from mandatory COOL accurately reflect Congressional intent.”