By a vote of 300 to 131, the House of Representatives passed legislation late Wednesday to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and chicken.
“I am thankful for the support of my colleagues today in passing this common-sense, bipartisan bill that is a necessary targeted response to avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) who introduced the bill.
While the vote was bi-partisan, the bill pitted the House Agriculture Committee chairman against ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN) who is an ardent supporter of COOL. “This is a rush to judgement that’s not necessary because this retaliation process is going to take a while,” said Peterson during the floor debate on the bill. “My biggest problem is that this bill is premature.”Reps. Conaway and Peterson floor comments
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Philip Ellis of Wyoming hopes the action by the House sends a clear signal that COOL is a failed program. “COOL has been without benefit to the U.S. cattle industry and producers like myself,” said Ellis. “And now with retaliation eminent from our largest trading partners, it is time this legislation is repealed. There is no other fix that can be put in place to bring value to this program or satisfy our trading partners.”
COOL repeal faces uncertainty in the Senate but Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) says he will do what he can to take action before any retaliatory steps are taken. “I am continuing to take suggestions from my colleagues in the Senate for alternatives that meet our trade obligations,” said Roberts. “However, almost a month has passed since the WTO ruling was announced, and repeal remains the surest way to protect the American economy from retaliatory tariffs.”
“We can sit here and let this happen. Or we can move. Let’s get a move on,” Roberts added.