U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Hoeven (R-ND) today introduced new bipartisan legislation to address country-of-origin labeling following the World Trade Organization ruling in May 2015. According to the WTO’s finding, the United States’ mandatory label must be reformed to honor existing trade relations with Canada and Mexico. As a result, Stabenow and Hoeven introduced the Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Trade Enhancement Act of 2015 that would comply with the WTO ruling by removing certain meat products from the mandatory labeling program. Additionally, this legislation will put in place a voluntary label to help empower consumers by ensuring they have accessible to products labeled ‘Product of the U.S.’ ‘Michigan farmers and ranchers take pride in raising the world’s safest and most affordable foods, and parents in Michigan want to know as much as possible about what their kids are eating,’ said Stabenow. ‘If consumers in Canada have the right to know where their food comes from through a voluntary labeling system, then American consumers should have the same. This bill is a path forward and will encourage international trade while giving families peace of mind.’ The Stabenow-Hoeven plan would establish a voluntary ‘Product of the U.S.’ label for beef, pork, chicken, and ground meat products that are from animals born, raised, and harvested in the United States. Stabenow is a long-time supporter of COOL and has lead the effort in the Senate to maintain a country-of-origin label in the wake of the WTO decision.
In May, the WTO ruled for the fourth, and final, time that the United States’ mandatory COOL law violates international trade agreements. As a result of the WTO’s ruling, Canada and Mexico have the ability to impose retaliatory sanctions and tariffs if the U.S. fails to address the current COOL law. Senator Stabenow’s bill would help prevent these tariffs by repealing the mandatory label, while also creating a voluntary option to help consumers who want to know where their food is coming from.
The Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Act of 2015 is co-sponsored by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Thune (R-SD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mike Enzi (R-WY).
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