Congress Repeals Country of Origin Labeling Requirements

December 21, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On December 18, President Obama signed into law an 887-page package of legislation designed to fund the government through 2016. Called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, the legislation made permanent or further extended many tax breaks important to farm producers and small businesses. These updates are discussed in a December 20, 2015, article found here.

The legislation also impacts producers in several other important ways.

Country of Origin Labeling

The new Act amends the Agricultural Marketing Act to repeal country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef and pork. This action was in response to the World Trade Organization’s December 7, 2015, ruling that Canada and Mexico could impose retaliatory tariffs on goods imported from the United States in an amount exceeding $1 billion. This retaliation was allowed because of the WTO’s earlier finding that U.S. country of origin labeling laws discriminated against producers from Canada and Mexico by treating imported meat less favorably than domestic meat.

The USDA announced on Friday that it would no longer enforce “COOL requirements for muscle cuts of beef and pork, and ground beef and pork. Effective immediately, USDA is not enforcing the COOL requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork outlined in the January 2009 and May 2013 final rules."

Clean Water Rule

The new Act did not, as some had hoped, restrict funding for the EPA’s enforcement of the new Clean Water Rule. Although the Rule is currently stayed pending court review, some had proposed withholding any funding for the Rule’s enforcement in the event it escapes judicial scrutiny. No such language made its way into the final omnibus package.

Crop Insurance

Although the new Act did not address crop insurance, it is important to note that recent legislation, H.R. 22, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, did. The FAST Act, signed by the President on December 7, 2015, restored $3 billion in crop insurance funds that had been removed by The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, signed November 2, 2015.

If you blinked, you missed it.