National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today urged Congress to ignore a recent letter signed by groups who are using scare tactics to derail Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), a law popular with both consumers and family farmers alike.
“This letter was organized by groups who have opposed COOL from day one and demonstrates that they understand they have lost the battle over this issue in the public arena,” said Johnson. “We urge Congress to ignore the overblown rhetoric of the letter and stay the course on COOL,” he said.
The letter comes on the heels of a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that the implementation of the law remains unbalanced between consumer information and production costs and will need further changes. “The WTO has already ruled that the COOL law is compliant and this ruling shows that USDA’s current rule is one more step in the right direction, but may not have gone far enough in providing sufficient information to consumers,” he said. Johnson noted that talk of retaliation is premature and the WTO process required to even consider such actions would likely be a year from concluding. “There is simply no rush to take rash action,” he said.
Importantly, “the list of letter-signers included many commodity groups but it did not include the two largest general farm groups,” noted the Hagstrom Report yesterday. Johnson pointed out that the so-called ‘COOL Reform Coalition,’ is actually a Trojan horse with the mission of torpedoing the popular labeling. “American consumers have been crystal clear that they want to know where their food comes from and farmers and ranchers are proud to provide it,” said Johnson. “USDA and USTR should appeal the WTO decision,” he added.
Johnson urged Congress — which voted to support COOL on three separate occasions during the 2008 Farm Bill — to resist any attempts to make changes to the law during the upcoming Lame Duck session after next week’s elections. “Given the length of the WTO process and the variable outcomes that are possible for COOL, there is no reason for Congress to be stampeded into rash action based on fear mongering,” he said.