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Current NFU News
COOL Wins Fourth Victory in U.S. Courts, NFU to Multinational Meat Industry: Drop the Senseless Litigation PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 31, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 31, 2014) - The following statement was issued by National Farmers Unions President Roger Johnson in response to the denial by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to the petition submitted by the multinational meat packers for a rehearing and supplemental relief on its challenge to enforcement of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL).

“Yet again, the U.S. courts have sided with consumers, farmers and their allies and have upheld the enforcement of COOL. This is now the fourth time that COOL has won in court. 

“COOL became the law of the land because consumers want to know where their food comes from and ranchers and farmers are happy to provide that information. Congress understood this basic need and passed this common-sense law.  We urge the multinational meat industry to drop the senseless litigation and allow the law to be enforced.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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NFU Says Congress Should Ignore Scare Tactics of Recent Anti-COOL Letter Urges USDA to Appeal WTO Ruling, Stay the Course on COOL PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 31, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 31, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today urged Congress to ignore a recent letter signed by groups who are using scare tactics to derail Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), a law popular with both consumers and family farmers alike.

“This letter was organized by groups who have opposed COOL from day one and demonstrates that they understand they have lost the battle over this issue in the public arena,” said Johnson. “We urge Congress to ignore the overblown rhetoric of the letter and stay the course on COOL,” he said.

The letter comes on the heels of a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that the implementation of the law remains unbalanced between consumer information and production costs and will need further changes. “The WTO has already ruled that the COOL law is compliant and this ruling shows that USDA’s current rule is one more step in the right direction, but may not have gone far enough in providing sufficient information to consumers,” he said. Johnson noted that talk of retaliation is premature and the WTO process required to even consider such actions would likely be a year from concluding. “There is simply no rush to take rash action,” he said.

Importantly, “the list of letter-signers included many commodity groups but it did not include the two largest general farm groups,” noted the Hagstrom Report yesterday. 

Johnson pointed out that the so-called ‘COOL Reform Coalition,’ is actually a Trojan horse with the mission of torpedoing the popular labeling. “American consumers have been crystal clear that they want to know where their food comes from and farmers and ranchers are proud to provide it,” said Johnson. “USDA and USTR should appeal the WTO decision,” he added.

Johnson urged Congress — which voted to support COOL on three separate occasions during the 2008 Farm Bill — to resist any attempts to make changes to the law during the upcoming Lame Duck session after next week’s elections. “Given the length of the WTO process and the variable outcomes that are possible for COOL, there is no reason for Congress to be stampeded into rash action based on fear mongering,” he said.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Says WTO Ruling On COOL Shows USDA Moving in Right Direction, Points Out No Need for Congressional Involvement PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 23, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 23, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said that the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) recent ruling on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) clearly shows U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is headed in right direction.

“This ruling demonstrates the legitimate nature of the COOL objective and finds that the current labeling rule is an improvement over the original rule, but it remains unbalanced between consumer information and production costs,” said Johnson. “This decision, as it has been issued, will likely be modified on appeal and NFU strongly urges USTR to appeal the ruling.”

Johnson moderated the panel discussion, and was also joined Danni Beer, president of U.S. Cattleman’s Association, Patrick Woodall, research director at Food & Water Watch, and Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, to discuss the details and implications of the WTO ruling.

On Monday, the WTO released the long-awaited, 200-plus page ruling that found the regulatory goal of COOL was WTO-compliant, and that the new 2013 labels provided better, more accurate information for consumers.

“The ruling gives USDA and USTR the opportunity to redefine the rule without the need for Congress to get involved,” said Johnson. “There may well be a more clear way to define ‘born, raised, slaughtered’ such that it cleans up the confusion which was in the decision.”

Johnson also offered the inclusion of value-added meat in the rule in order to make it WTO-compliant. “By rule, we could include a number of value-added meat products that heretofore, have not been included,” said Johnson. “The WTO decision says that essentially the costs side that the producers have to bear are more than the benefit side that the consumers get… To the extent that you can increase the amount of the product that is labeled, you nullify that argument.”

Johnson also discredited the economic issues raised by COOL opponents.He noted that the U.S. was heading into a recession, the U.S.-Canadian dollar exchange rate dramatically changed, and energy costs were starting to skyrocket. All of this caused a decrease in imports, not just across Canada and Mexico, but for all countries and commodities.

“There is a very strong conviction among all of us that the COOL statute needs to remain in place. The WTO, in all of the decisions that have been rendered on this case so far, have always said the law is ok. We have a right to do this.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Says USDA Can Make Any Necessary Changes Necessary to Bring COOL into Compliance with Today’s Mixed WTO Ruling PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 20, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 20, 2014)  — National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said that today’s ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) can be handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and reminded lawmakers of the strong support by the public and in rural America for the popular labeling law.

“American consumers want to know where their food comes from, and America’s family farmers and ranchers are proud to provide that information,” said Johnson. “Nothing about today’s ruling changes that rudimentary fact.”

This most recent challenge to COOL, filed by Canada and Mexico, challenges the final rule put forward by USDA and comes on the heels of an earlier WTO ruling that found the U.S. has the right to require labeling of meat products, but found fault with how the rule was implemented.

“Under the guidance of USDA, any changes to COOL to ensure full compliance with today’s decision should be able to be made administratively, while maintaining the integrity of COOL labels,” said Johnson.    

A May 2013 public opinion poll found that more than 90 percent of consumers support COOL, and feelings for the labeling law are equally strong in rural America. “We are confident that given that level of support, Congress will reject all heavy-handed attempts to make legislative changes to this important labeling law,” said Johnson.

Since its passage in 2002, COOL has been under constant attack both domestically, by the U.S. meat industry, and internationally. On each and every domestic occasion, the rulings have come down in support of COOL. 

This recent ruling will likely take many months to resolve, since it will undoubtedly be appealed, and the WTO process is slow moving. Just as NFU has played an active role in legally defending this rule in U.S. courts – and has so far won every legal ruling in court – NFU will also work with USDA and U.S. Trade Representative to see that our WTO rights are protected and that we will comply with any final WTO decisions. Now is not the time to change the law. It is the time to see the WTO process through to an ultimate conclusion.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU President Addresses Role of Family Farming and Cooperatives in Food Security, Food Sovereignty PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 9, 2014

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 9, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today discussed the role of family farming and cooperatives in food security and food sovereignty as part of a panel discussion at the International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec City, Canada.  

“Family farms and ranches worldwide are the cultural, social, economic and security cornerstones of every nation,” said Johnson. “Forty percent of the world’s households directly depend on family farming, and every person who eats also depends on family farmers.”

The International Summit of Cooperatives, held annually, brought together nearly 200 leading experts and more than 2500 participants from 42 countries to share their knowledge on innovation in sustainability, development, employment, food security, and the economics of cooperatives.

Johnson noted that despite agricultural production in the United States shifting to large farms, trends also indicate an increase in new, yet smaller, farms. “Americans want families to own and operate farms and ranches,” said Johnson. “Consumers want local foods and demand is creating new opportunities.”

Johnson also noted that in the United States, farmers and ranchers have been successfully involved in cooperatives for nearly 100 years. Farmers Union’s own history is closely tied with the cooperative movement, having developed and supported thousands of cooperatives over the decades.

“Cooperatives and agriculture go hand-in-hand,” said Johnson. “Co-ops provide farmers and ranchers with lower-cost inputs, higher income through marketing and processing, financial resources, access to electrical utilities and communications technology, and connections to consumers.”

The five panelists also discussed the idea that family agriculture is the basis for sustainable production to move towards food security. Johnson pointed out the many benefits of food security in the United States.

“Food security has allowed the U.S. economy to expand into technology, manufacturing, entertainment and heavy industry,” said Johnson. “Consumers spend less than 10 percent of their income on food and it also allows the U.S. to have programs to help feed the poor.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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