On July 8, 2013 the American Meat Institute (AMI), together with several American and Canadian cattle and meat associations, filed a complaint against the United States Department of Agriculture alleging that the final mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule violates the First Amendment, the Agricultural Marketing Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The revised COOL rule, designed to inform consumers of the country of origin of certain covered commodities, was challenged by Canada and Mexico before the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2012 under the Technical Barriers to Trade agreement (TBT). According to Canada and Mexico, COOL requirements imposed burdens on the meat products supply chain that discriminated against their livestock exports. The WTO Appellate Body agreed, noting that there was no health and safety basis for COOL, and mandated that the United States bring COOL into compliance with the TBT agreement or potentially face retaliatory measures from affected foreign countries. The Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA released the amended COOL rule on May 23, 2013 in an effort to bring COOL in compliance with the TBT. (For more information on COOL, please see our Current Issues Page on the Agricultural Law Center’s website.)
As discussed in our previous COOL blog post, Canada and Mexico as well as many domestic organizations such as AMI were still unsatisfied with COOL. AMI alleges in its complaint that COOL violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because COOL compels speech that serves no substantial government interest since there is no health and safety basis for COOL. AMI also claims that COOL exceeds the authority granted by the Agricultural Marketing Act because COOL was not intended to implement point-of-processing labels as defined in the 2008 Farm Bill. Finally, AMI alleges that COOL violates the Administrative Procedures Act because it is arbitrary and capricious; COOL misleads consumers about the true origin of meat products and exacerbates the WTO violations.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is docketed at 1:13-cv-01033. More information on COOL and the case can be found on AMI’s website.
Written by Sarah Doyle - Research Assistant
The Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
July 9, 2013