The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week turned down a request for a preliminary injunction to stop USDA from going forward with implementing its mandatory country of origin (COOL) labeling rules while a lawsuit is still in play. The suit was filed July 8 by nine organizations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to block USDA from going forward with implementing and enforcing its revised COOL rules.
Predictably, one side was delighted; the other, not so much.
“We, of course, are pleased with the court’s decision to deny the preliminary injunction requested by the plaintiffs,” says Jon Wooster,U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) president. “If the injunction had been granted, it would have ensured that the U.S. would be in violation of its trade obligations under the WTO, and also would have further delayed consumers having the type of information Congress has long intended them to have.”
USCA, along with the National Farmers Union (NFU), American Sheep Industry Association (ASIA),and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), became interveners in the lawsuit last month, which gives them the ability to fully participate in the lawsuit. “USCA, NFU, ASIA and CFA are committed to a strong defense of COOL,” Wooster says.
The American Meat Institute, one of the nine plaintiffs, believes several aspects of the court’s ruling are susceptible to challenge and plans to appeal, says J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO.
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“It was a huge disappointment for us,” says Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen's Beef Associationvice president of government affairs. “But we have to remind everybody that this is one of many steps we are looking at to try to find relief from country of origin labeling.”
Woodall says even though the decision was made by the judge on this injunctive relief request, “the fact remains that this is still a government-run program that is not providing any benefit to the consumer or producers and is harming our relationship with two of our biggest international markets, and that is Canada and Mexico.” Those two countries are poised to begin economic retaliation against the U.S. over what they believe is an illegal COOL rule.
“So we are going to look at all the options we have, not only moving forward with this case, because that is still an option, but also continue to look at the farm bill as a way to get this fixed,” Woodall says.
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