The latest in the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) saga has Secretary Vilsack making yet another negative change to the labeling rule, particularly in regard to the pork industry, and expects the WTO to deem it in compliance!

MCOOL, if ruled out of compliance again by WTO, will open up the almost assured retaliation of free trade by our partners Canada and Mexico. Retaliation will come via tariffs to a large number of products exported by the United States. U.S. pork products will have to be devalued to remain competitive in Canada and Mexico, thus putting negative price pressure back through the pork chain.

Any reduction in pork exports puts more product on the domestic market, which puts supply ahead of demand. U.S. pork consumption has been stagnant, inelastic, and more product only reduces demand at the packer level. I can feel the bid prices dropping as I type!!

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) states: “NPPC supports a legislative solution in the 2013 Farm Bill to change the MCOOL rule so that it satisfies WTO trade obligations. NPPC believes legislation can be crafted that would satisfy our trading partners by providing sufficient label information to consumers that more accurately reflects meat products derived from Mexican and Canadian livestock.”

Here are points to consider and share with your congressmen on repealing MCOOL via the Farm Bill:

  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is more than capable of identifying meat that is not safe, regardless of where the animal was born.
  • Meat from animals fed and slaughtered in the United States should have no label restrictions. Where the baby pig was born has NO impact on fresh pork. (A tee shirt, for example, is stamped “Made In China.” Anyone ever ask where the cotton was raised?)
  • A ham cured by a U.S. company, regardless of country of origin, is exempt from MCOOL regulation. Why is that ham better/safer than fresh pork processed at any processing facility in the United States?
  • Canada and Mexico are our second- and third-largest importers of U.S. pork. Why give them reasons to shop elsewhere for a whole range of products, including pork?

We can write a much better labeling law for all products. Start by repealing MCOOL via the Farm Bill. Call your Congressman – act as if your profits hinge in the balance.

The opinions expressed are those of the author.