COOL isn’t working - The Packer

COOL isn’t working

06/14/2013 11:41:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

Pamela RiemenschneiderIt’s a familiar tale: the federal government passes and enforces a law with good intentions but bad effects on the marketplace.

In the most recent case, it’s the four-year-old country-of-origin labeling law, which continues to cause problems for U.S. food producers and the largest export markets.

In mid-June, Canada threatened retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports of apples and cherries, among other products, over the U.S. COOL law.

Implementation of the tariffs are a year or two away, but the produce industry needs to get to work with government officials now to avoid this.

Mexico and Canada have both charged that COOL is protectionist and against World Trade Organization rules, which the WTO confirmed in December 2011.

The law affects a number of U.S. agricultural groups — most notably the beef and pork industries — which have spoken out against COOL, as have U.S. grocery groups.

Produce groups haven’t really come to a consensus, but agree it adds costs to the market.

Supporters of COOL say consumer studies consistently find support for origin labeling, but it’s usually in response to questions that ask consumers if they want more information about their food. Who would say “No”?

On the other hand, a study by Kansas State University conducted in November found that mere country-of-origin information has not affected consumer demand for beef or other covered products, and in fact, many consumers are unaware labeling information exists.

COOL is having little positive effect in the market, and it’s time for produce industry members to talk to their government representatives about modifications, if not a repeal.

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