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'The Hill' Guest Opinion on Union Statement on COOL, Consumer Rights

06 August 2014

US - National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson continued the fight for America’s consumers, ranchers and farmers in a guest column in "The Hill" explaining why multinational meat packers and foreign trade competitors need to let common sense prevail and support America’s Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law.

"Nobody seemed to care where their pet treats came from until dogs started dropping dead from eating tainted food from China," noted Mr Johnson. "When it was all over, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had received 5,600 complaints from consumers about their pets getting sick and, sadly, about 1,000 of them perished."

Mr Johnson pointed out that, thankfully, Congress understood that consumers have a right to know where their pet food, and their own food, comes from, and in 2008 passed a law known as COOL. "In short, COOL says that muscle cuts of meat, and some fruits and vegetables, must be labeled with the country's name where it was produced."

COOL doesn't restrict imports; it simply gives grocery shoppers information to make purchasing decisions that are right for their families. "If a family prefers Vietnamese catfish or Mexican meatloaf, there will be available options. If not, the family can choose locally grown US alternatives," he noted.

A May 2013 public opinion poll showed more than 90 per cent of consumers support COOL. Mr Johnson notes just last week "consumer advocates prevailed when the District Court of Appeals handed multinational meat packers a stinging defeat. By a 9 to 2 majority, the panel upheld an earlier court ruling to deny a request to halt enforcement of the law."

Foreign countries and their big business partners are also pushing international courts at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to intervene. "The same WTO that helped facilitate lopsided trade deals and outsource US manufacturing jobs will soon rule on what information US grocery shoppers can receive," he noted.

"Simultaneously, powerful lobbying groups are bankrolling efforts to 'reform' COOL in Congress, and by reform, they mean gut it. Instead of 'Born, Raised and Harvested in the US,' they're pushing for 'Made in North America' labels so consumers can't differentiate between products of Mexico, Canada or the United States."

"What's next?" he asks. "Made on Earth labels?"
"America has the safest, best homegrown food supply in the world. Let's be proud, not ashamed, of that accomplishment," he concluded.

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