Appeals court decides on USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling Rule

Appeals court decides on USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling Rule

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld USDA’s authority to issue rules implementing country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat and poultry products. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard was pleased with the 8-3 ruling; he said it’s unlikely the case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We think this decision is relatively strong,” said Bullard, “and the likelihood of the Supreme Court hearing this case, I would think, to be rather minimal. So, this is very good news, but it begs the question now, as we are anticipating a decision from the World Trade Organization, as to: who are we going to listen to?”

Bullard said if the WTO rules against Country of Origin Labeling, then the decision will become whether to follow Constitutional law here in the United States, or to follow an appointed international tribunal.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall was disappointed with the en banc ruling. He said all legal remedies are now exhausted.

“It does disappoint us,” explained Woodall. “It basically means that on the legal side, that this fight is done. So there really are no other option for us that we’re going to take on the legal side. Basically, the next steps are to continue to watch the WTO process, because ultimately, we think that the WTO process will continue to find against the United States, and will lead us closer and closer to retaliation.”

Tuesday’s ruling in front of all judges residing in the appeals court district upheld what COOL proponents says is a consumer’s right to know where his or her meat is born, raised and slaughtered. Opponents of the rule say it creates unneccessary financial burdens on meatpackers, who have to segregate livestock by country of origin at each step of the production chain.

Click on the audio player at the top of this page to hear more about recent country of origin labeling developments.