By Joe Steck, Mankato Times - BLUE EARTH, MINN. — Republican First District congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn wasted no time in blasting incumbent Democrat Rep. Tim Walz in a press release. Hagedorn condemned Rep. Walz for voting against the bipartisan House Agriculture Committee legislation to repeal U.S. country of origin labeling requirements.
Two days after the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld an earlier decision that a U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule is not compliant with international trade obligations, House lawmakers officially began the procedural steps necessary to repeal the law.
The House Committee on Agriculture voted and approved HR. 2393, a bipartisan bill that would repeal Country of Origin Labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken products, while leaving intact the requirements for all other covered commodities, such as seafood and shellfish. The bill, which amended the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946, is in reaction to the WTO decision and seeks to avoid economic retaliation from Canada and Mexico by simply repealing the offending provisions of the COOL law.
Walz was part of a small minority, as H.R. 2393 passed the Committee 38-6, with the backing of all committee Republicans and with a 13-6 margin of support from Democrats. Other Democrats voting against the measure were Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan of Minnesota, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Ann Kuster of New Hampshire and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.
“Tim Walz’s vote against the Agriculture Committee’s bipartisan bill (H.R. 2393) once again reveals that Mr. Walz is only a part-time advocate for southern Minnesota’s farmers and rural residents,” said Hagedorn. “The First District is one of the largest pork producing districts in the United States, and yet our Congressman turns his back on his constituents. Our farmers, along with all who depend upon a strong agricultural economy, deserve better.” said Hagedorn.
The legislation was authored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conway (R-TX) to repeal country of origin labeling for pork, beef and chicken. The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration.
COOL is a labeling law that requires retailers, such as full-line grocery stores, supermarkets, and club warehouse stores, to notify their customers with information regarding where each animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
“I wholeheartedly support the House Agriculture Committee’s bill to repeal country of origin labeling requirements for pork, beef and chicken,” said Hagedorn. “Congress must take all possible steps to avoid trade retaliation by Canada and Mexico, as export barriers aimed at U.S. agricultural interests would cause grave economic hardship, especially for southern Minnesota’s livestock farmers and rural communities,” he said.
The WTO has repeatedly branded U.S. country of origin labeling rules as “out of compliance” and an unfair trade practice vis-à-vis Canada and Mexico. Chairman Conway and other leaders believe repeal of the so called COOL rules is needed to circumvent the imposition of tariffs by Canada and Mexico against U.S. pork, beef and poultry products.
“Working in a bipartisan manner is the only way to accomplish real change for our country. That is why I would like to thank my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, for their support of H.R. 2393, a bill to repeal mandatory COOL requirements for beef, pork, and chicken products,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. “With the recent decision by the WTO, we must act rapidly to avoid serious trade barriers being enacted against U.S. agricultural products. This is a good first step towards resolving this issue that has been hanging over the industry for years.”