R-CALF rhetoric pushes to have COOL reinstated

(Lance Cheung/Creative Commons)

Montana-based cattle membership organization R-CALF has launched a multi-pronged attack to convince President Trump to reinstate mandatory country of origin labelling (MCOOL) in the upcoming renegotiation of NAFTA.

On Agritalk on Thursday, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard argued for MCOOL on the basis it supports President Trump’s “America first” policy, food safety, and America’s sovereignty, since the World Trade Organization ruled against the labeling rules.

R-CALF also filed a lawsuit on the issue against the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week. Here’s a statement from the organization’s website:

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) and Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington Monday against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The suit alleges that USDA regulations that allow beef and pork to be classified as “domestic products,” even when those meat products are imported from other countries, confuse consumers and harm American farmers.

In reality, I believe R-CALF’s push for mandatory MCOOL has nothing to do with food safety. Bill Bullard attempts to lump Canada and Mexico into the same category as Brazil on food safety. In light of the news the USDA is closing its border to Brazilian beef after rejecting 11 percent of it over the last few months, it’s completely intellectually dishonest to consider imports from Canada and Mexico as equal to Brazilian imports. Although R-CALF applauds the decision to ban Brazilian beef imports, this takes some wind out of their sails on the food safety argument for MCOOL.

Read Jasyon Lusk’s blog post the impact of MCOOL on the U.S. cattle market

This is not about 20 countries flooding the U.S. market with fresh beef, this is about preventing Canadian feeders from competing with Montana ranchers. R-CALF rants and raves about NAFTA hurting U.S. ranchers, but it sure doesn’t complain when its membership exports feeder cattle into Canada.

According to Bullard, this is a matter of U.S. sovereignty. This might fit with the President’s “America first”  an argument that contains as much the truth as Trump suggesting Canadian steel imports threaten U.S. national security. Who is making this stuff up? The WTO serves a purpose to settle disputes on trade. All countries win and lose WTO challenges.  The Unites States may not like decisions against it — in fact no country does, but MCOOL has been found to be wrong and trade-distorting.

You know we live in strange times when R-CALF potentially has more clout with a Republican president than the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association does.

For the sake of cattle producers in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., let’s hope that R-CALF gets no momentum with this agenda.

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