The United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the R-CALF USA, Food & Water Watch, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and Western Organization of Resource Councils motion to intervene and defend country of origin labeling (COOL) from a lawsuit filed by the international meatpacking industry.
That was announced in a combined news release from the four groups, R-CALF USA, F&WW, SDSGA and WORC. R-CALF has held a number of fundraising programs with the South Dakota Stockgrowers in area auction barns.
“We are pleased the Court has granted us permission to defend the opportunity for U.S. cattle producers to have their U.S. beef products properly labeled so they can be chosen by U.S. consumers,” said South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Executive Director Silvia Christen.
“With this decision, western independent cattle producers have an opportunity to defend a valuable program under attack by the NCBA and meatpackers,” said Wilma Tope, a rancher near Aladdin, Wyo., and WORC spokesperson.
COOL, country of origin labeling, is a federal law requiring country of origin meat labeling. Since the law was passed, it has been delayed at the federal level.
The court’s recent ruling allows the COOL advocate organizations to defend the COOL rules on the merits in the face of the meatpacking industries’ legal challenge.
“As the largest producer-only trade association representing the U.S. cattle industry, we will take this opportunity to aggressively defend COOL for U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
He added, “R-CALF USA fought for more than a decade to implement COOL with these very allies and together we are prepared to fight even harder to defend it.”
The COOL law was first passed in the 2002 Farm Bill, but its implementation has been delayed by meatpacker opposition. A coalition of meatpackers, both domestic and international, and packer-producer trade associations, sued USDA to block COOL in July 2013, nearly five years after COOL was included again in the 2008 Farm Bill, and additionally sought a preliminary injunction to halt COOL’s implementation immediately.
The meatpackers were dealt a setback in September, when the District Court rejected their request for a preliminary injunction. The ruling on the preliminary injunction was immediately repealed, but the underlying challenge to the COOL rule is still pending before the lower court.
“Consumers, farmers and ranchers have tirelessly fought to implement COOL and the Court’s ruling allows the eaters and producers to join together again in defense of a commonsense rule that allows families to know where their food comes from.” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.
A key goal of the suit is to continue affixing misleading “commingled” labels bearing “Product of Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.” even on meat from animals that never stepped foot in either Canada or Mexico.