Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Meat of the Matter: Not so COOL anymore

By Dan Murphy

The ill-advised, poorly written and wholly ineffective Country of Origin labeling law is finally getting a decent burial. Some folks are in mourning, but they should be celebrating.

Finally, the end is near.

After more than a dozen years of debate, controversy and disappointment for all parties involved, the ill-advised law with the incongruously inappropriate nickname appears to be on its way out.

Country of Origin Labeling, better known as COOL, has been tentatively repealed by a vote of Congress as part of the recently approved omnibus spending bill.

The meatpacking side of the industry was obviously pleased.

“We are enormously grateful that lawmakers have included language in the Omnibus bill to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling for certain meat products,” North American Meat Institute CEO Barry Carpenter said in a statement. “This congressional action is an important step in avoiding the financial harm so many industries will incur once Canada and Mexico initiate the tariffs sanctioned by the WTO’s ruling earlier this month. This trade dispute’s tentacles extend far beyond agriculture, and it’s time to put an end to this costly trade barrier.”

In perhaps the most important part of his statement — a sentence that could have covered everything that needed to be said — Carpenter emphasized that, “The marketplace, with consumers as the drivers, should determine what labeling is meaningful and should appear on meat products — not protectionists who fear free and unfettered trade.”

That’s the issue with COOL, the primary problem from which the legislation suffered from all along. If consumers don’t respond with their wallets to product labels that proclaim “Made in USA,” which is what the law’s proponents were counting on to make the measure meaningful, the net result is a classic case of fixing something that wasn’t broken.

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