Guest opinion: COOL makes sense for U.S. ranchers, consumers – The Billings Gazette, July 15, 2013

July 15, 2013

Categories: Agriculture, Member news, News, Northern Plains Resource Council, Plains Speaking

By Gilles Stockton

It has been a long 12-year roller coaster ride to get Country of Origin Labeling for meat enacted and actually implemented. After our COOL law was challenged by Canada and Mexico in the World Trade Organization, the Obama Administration countered with an even stronger labeling requirement – clearly stating where the meat was born, raised, and slaughtered. These are the requirements that we livestock producers were all in favor of in the first place and the information that consumers have overwhelmingly said they want.

However, the roller coaster ride is not quite over. WTO will review this new, stronger labeling requirement and we can count on Canada and Mexico doing everything they can to influence the WTO to reject the new wording. Now we hear that the multi-national beef and pork packing cartel and their captive American producer organization the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has filed a lawsuit to block implementation (see “Labeling Beef,” Page 1 Gazette, July 11).

NCBA has campaigned to delay and derail COOL at every step of this long process. This group that all cattle producers are required to fund through the Beef Check-off Tax has obstructed the process, claiming exaggerated implementation costs and improbable trade repercussions. The NCBA says it represents cattle producers, but its policies are clearly directed by the meatpacking cartel.

NCBA has lobbied for of all of the trade agreements that have eroded our national sovereignty. With each new trade agreement, we were promised increased beef exports. However, because the trade agreements have been with countries looking to sell us beef — such as Canada, Mexico, and Australia — beef exports are stagnate. NCBA contends that because of the new stronger COOL labeling requirements our trading partners will retaliate against U.S. beef. What a crock – they hardly buy any of our beef.

The long process of getting COOL implemented has been both exhilarating and frustrating. It has been exhilarating to be part of a movement with thousands of grassroots producers from all over the nation, all working for a labeling requirement because it is right to give consumers information and choice.

However, the lack of integrity on the part of those opposing COOL has also made the campaign disappointing and frustrating. For democracy to work, legitimate different views and opinions need to be publicly aired and honestly debated. When only one side of the debate is working from a position of integrity, democracy is undermined. Truthfulness and honest debate is not central in today’s political climate. For this, we are all the losers and I for one, am disgusted with what now passes as normal politics.

Fortunately, the NCBA is alone in this. Every other major farm organization in Montana and across the country supports country of origin labeling. If you are a check-off paying rancher, or a consumer of Montana beef, call the Montana Stockgrowers Association, tell them the NCBA should drop this unwarranted attack on a law that U.S. ranchers and consumers overwhelmingly support.

Gilles Stockton is a rancher in Grass Range and a member of Northern Plains Resource Council and the Western Organization of Resource Councils.


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