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Agriculture Today

COOL court case continues in D.C.

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September 11, 2013 | 4,004 views | Post a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A hearing was held Aug. 27 in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia to hear arguments on the motion filed by plaintiffs asking the court to temporarily enjoin the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, together with the National Farmers Union, the American Sheep Industry Association, and the Consumer Federation of America, as defendant-intervenors, filed an opposition to the preliminary injunction motion and presented arguments opposing the preliminary injunction during the hearing.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Meat Institute, the American Association of Meat Processors, the National Pork Producers Council, the North American Meat Association, the Southwest Meat Association, and three Canadian and Mexican livestock groups.

USDA’s revised regulations were prompted by a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that certain aspects of the Ag Department’s existing regulations violated the United States’ trade obligations. The modified rules improve on the 2009 rules by requiring labels to specify the basis of the country of origin information shown.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “and the other plaintiffs argued during the Aug. 27 hearing, among other things, that the new rules violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, exceed USDA’s authority granted under the statute, and that the new rules are arbitrary and capricious,” said U.S. Cattlemen’s Association President Jon Wooster.

The four defendant-intervenors “... argued that the new rules pass constitutional scrutiny and the rules further the very long-standing and judicially recognized governmental interest in assuring that consumers have access to accurate country of origin information and reduce consumer confusion.

“This is a critical juncture in the lawsuit,” Wooster said. “If the plaintiffs’ motion is granted, USDA will be blocked from implementing its revised COOL regulations during the pendency of the litigation. The issuance of the preliminary injunction will have the unfortunate effect of placing the United States out of compliance with its trade obligations under the WTO by returning the market situation to the 2009 regulations which were already found to be inconsistent with United States obligations.”

The presiding judge is scheduled to issue an opinion by Sept. 10, according to a Sept. 5 U.S. Cattlemen’s Association press release.

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