Center for Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization (CAFIO)


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CAFIO Policy Pager 3 (2013)


Public Law 107-171, the United States Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, required country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities, and peanuts. While the aim is to benefit domestic consumers by allowing them to make informed decisions, the effects of COOL have been the subject of a heated on-going debate. Advocates of COOL argue the existence of an “overwhelming” consumer support for country of origin information and benefits that substantially outweigh the costs of this labeling regime. Opposing groups have expressed concerns about the potential competitive disadvantage that non-integrated producers might face due to higher record-keeping costs.

Public Law 110-246 of 2008 modified provisions regarding recordkeeping, labeling products of multiple origins, and penalties for noncompliance, and increased the number of commodities covered by the policy. This did little to end the debate about the policy, however. Canada and Mexico have challenged the legality of COOL within the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2008. A WTO dispute settlement panel found certain aspects of the COOL requirements, as they apply to beef and pork, to breach the WTO commitments of the US. The panel’s report has been appealed by the United States (March 23, 2012), and by Canada and Mexico (March 28, 2012).