COOL isn’t working

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It’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 meat and poultry, 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.

It’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.

- See more at: http://www.thepacker.com/opinion/fresh-produce-opinion/COOL-isnt-working-211571181.html#sthash.JLYnVjqa.dpuf

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Thom Katt    
Midwest  |  June, 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM

To know that COOL won't work all one need do is look at the American retail market for fashion and electronics. Consumers care a lot more about price than origin. And, generally speaking they don't pay much attention to labels.

Dave    
Indiana  |  June, 18, 2013 at 02:04 PM

I think food is a bit different than a TV set. With the problems on food safety in many countries consumers are looking at labels and making informed choices. Is there something wrong with information? We label country of manufacture for electronics, clothes, building products and most items in commerce...why not food?

wally    
VA  |  June, 18, 2013 at 02:33 PM

Vocal consumers demanded this. They outnumber producers, and in a democracy the majority rules while the minority is protected. If COOL is the worst that can happen we will be OK.

Walt    
Alberta  |  June, 18, 2013 at 03:08 PM

COOL is not about consumers but a high priced protectionist scheme to eliminate Canadian livestock from the US marketplace.. Ask any consumer a question about importance of price or origin and the answer will be clear. COOL has had a devastating impact on Canadian producers who trusted the US on their honesty and adherence to trade policy. They believed in an integrated North American market with production based on free markets. It made more sense to grow calves on Manitoba grass and ship the feeders to corn surplus Nebraska for finishing. Beef would flow from US packing plants to Ontario and other high population areas. Weanlings would be raised in Canada and then moved to the US for finishing and processing. This entire free market production process based on comparative advantages resulted in high quality pork and beef and benefited consumers with high quality meat in both US and Canada. Canadian producers were the biggest supporters of US free market practices but have been badly betrayed by what has become a very protectionist, non science based govt driven by a philosophy that believes in a sense of entitlement and total lack of regard for trade agreements made in good faith. In the meantime US consumers will be playing a higher price for meat products and will only get higher based on a clearly inefficient production system. Retaliation by the Canadian Govt for this flagrant violation will only harm innocent businesses in the US as a result of COOL. Canadian producers have paid a terrible price but have realized the US is no longer a dependable trading partner and need to explore more dependable market opportunities elsewhere. In the meantime consumers in both the US and Canada will pay the price.

maxine    
SD  |  June, 18, 2013 at 05:39 PM

COOL happened because some people wanted consumers to eat only US raised beef. But they didn't want to pay the costs of their own branded beef program. They wanted all of us (some who already WERE paying such costs for the many brands of beef available: CAN, Ranchers Renaissance, and many more) to pay the costs. The costs for adding to the information already required on all meats IS significant, whether paid by the packer, which proponents favored, or the consumer, we really ALL end up paying the costs. Many would prefer the marketplace as the source to fill any demand, and it will if the demand exists! Some prefer it be government mandated, and they 'won', if it is a 'win' to cause so much difficulty for so little to be gained, in this case. For the record, Canada is one of the USA's best customers and trading partners. We need Canadian cattle to keep costs of processing our cattle low. Selling some of our beef to Canadians has been a bonus for US cattle producers. Sad to see so many problems and so much costs for so little gain, for a strictly political ploy by some cattle producers in the USA! Especially when consumers care more which RANCH raised the cattle than which country! Not to mention the favorable balance between the few imports of cattle/beef and the favorable prices WE get for our exports of BEEF!

MikeS.    
Kansas  |  June, 18, 2013 at 09:42 PM

To you who don't think Country of Origin works, you have been on the packer puppet payroll way to long. Why do you support the "NCBA abuses with your checkoff money" promoting "Generic imported from anywhere Beef"? Consumers by over 95% support COOL and still continue to pay for USA Product. I know you don't want to see or admit it but get away from the packer media magazines and just go out and ask some people in the stores. For the life of the USA cattle industry I can't imagine anyone who had family who fought in any war that wouldn't want to promote our own country first. KSU's one study against COOL is a joke like many on the payroll. With the packer position, it is like the boss at Tyson personally asking the workers "DO you support COOL"? Some at KSU are the same to the students! The next lie is the export markets... A high percentage have NO MONEY! Over 80% of the world population makes less than $1,200.00 per year and that was 5 years ago and it is worse today! Go sell your beef in Haiti and see what you get! If labeling isn't good why does Tyson and JBS advertise their company names and logo's on their packages and trucks? How much does that ad to the cost of your beef?? Give me a break!

Dave    
Nebraska  |  June, 18, 2013 at 11:15 PM

Who is the author of this article? The Packer Editorial Board. I hope Drovers will print an editorial form the other point view.

Gregs    
Kansas  |  June, 19, 2013 at 07:44 AM

I am a K-State person who also raises and feeds cattle. I strongly like the idea of labeling our food. I want to raise cattle to meet the choices of my customer and many of them like to know where their food comes from. Remember, information makes a market more efficient. Informed consumers make better choices. Let me have the opportunity to give foodies that choice Mr. Packer! It is time to move on and let COOL work.

Cork Meyer    
Wyoming  |  June, 19, 2013 at 08:17 PM

It didn't take the packers long to get around to saying this won't work. But they sure think paying their advertisements through the check off is a good thing (because it is free) for packers and retailers.

cliff    
June, 19, 2013 at 10:07 PM

There is nothing in the Cool Law to keep Canada or Mexico cattle procucers from shipping their to the US as they have been doing , but now the US consumer will be informed where the Meat or produce is from. I am cain't believe any knowledgeable producer or consumer believes the BS that the Packers and their puppets are putting out and crying about.


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