USDA Report: Labeling Requirement Costs Producers Without Benefit To Consumers

Federal officials reported that country-of-origin-labeling requirements cost the agricultural sector billions without any measurable benefit to consumers.

Federal officials reported that country-of-origin-labeling requirements cost the agricultural sector billions without any measurable benefit to consumers.

The report to Congress from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Chief Economist found no evidence that purchases of meat or pork would increase much as a require of COOL standards.

By contrast, labeling since 2009 cost the beef industry alone roughly $1.3 billion, according to a study by Kansas State University and University of Missouri analysts that was cited in the report.

The COOL mandate requires meat producers to label where animals were born, raised and slaughtered, and prohibits including products from different nations in the same package.

Proponents say the requirement, first established in the 2002 farm bill and implemented in 2009, provides valuable information to consumers.

The meat industry, however, argued the new labels are costly and expressed concerns the requirement could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico. Farmers in those countries are squeezed when U.S. companies can't afford to comply with storing their products differently than domestic products.

Canada and Mexico challenged COOL at the World Trade Organization more than five years ago; a ruling from the agency is expected later this month.

USDA officials vowed to work with Congress to resolve any issues cited by the WTO, including potentially creating a North American label to alleviate concerns from neighboring nations.

Republican congressional leaders, however, said only a full repeal would address ongoing concerns over COOL.

“In order to avoid what could be devastating retaliatory sanctions against U.S. businesses if we lose, the starting point needs to be that mandatory COOL for meat is a failed experiment which should be repealed,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas.

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