Monday, December 21, 2015

Not COOL. South Dakota Ranchers Get Stiffed By Noem, Rounds And, Sort Of, Thune

     Budget hawk-ish Republicans from South Dakota who are already irked by the easy
Ranchers And Consumers Want This
Why Aren't Our Reps Fighting For It?
(photo from foodsafetynews.com)
passage of the big "Omnibus" spending bill in Congress last week have more than its deficit-ballooning elements to get steamed about.
Tucked into the bill was a provision that would repeal the "country of origin labeling" (COOL) rule that many South Dakota ranchers fought for years to get implemented.  Voting in favor of the bill were Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Senator Mike Rounds.  Senator Thune voted against the measure, though on a prior spending bill (the "Bipartisan Budget Act")  a month earlier he did vote with every Senate Democrat to invoke cloture on furthering legislative discussions of that budget-stretching bill, a vote so politically and ideologically uncharacteristic that it was deemed "statiscially notable" by Govtrack.us.  Thune the budget-hawk then voted in favor of it. Why Thune would want to stall further debate of a budget bill and vote in favor of it, then, at the very next opportunity, vote against the spending bill that ended COOL is a political consideration that bears explaining.  You might say he was "for" government overspending before he was "against" it.  

     My take?  Pubs got so much heat for shutting down the government two years ago that they just didn't have the political nerve to fight this budget proposal again by repeating that blunder of 2013. In the meantime, though, I'm a little steamed about how the COOL repudiation got stuck into this thing, as I believe our Congressional delegation owes it to their ranching community's voters to put this out as a separate item, worthy of consideration on its own merits. Slipping it inside a budget bill is chicken manure, and I'm surprised and perplexed as to why Noem, Rounds and Thune seem to have let it slide.  Where was the vigorous defense of COOL, a cornerstone of ranching industry economics that also just happens to be favored by 93% of American consumers? 
     As a former cattle feeder and trader I've never been that much of a fan of COOL, considering its labeling requirements to be burdensome and unnecessary.  Carcasses leaving meat packing plants in this country are inspected and graded to standards that apply to final products
Kowgirl Kristi, Defiance Personified
Why So Meek When It Comes To COOL?
(photo from sddp.org)
regardless of their origin. However, the law is the law--and I understand that consumers generally favor this type of labeling, so the practice has been in place and the industry has adapted to it, and that's that. That it has run afoul of international trade agreements is well enough known, with a recent WTO ruling against the American practice precipitating the repeal of the law.  

     The problem that South Dakotans should be having with this is clear.  Why did our U.S. reps roll over so easily and let COOL repeal slip through the process with nary a whimper?  They've been quite supportive up to now,  much to the delight of South Dakota's ranchers.  Now all of a sudden they've clammed up and pretty much acquiesced to the extermination of one their pet issues. Fear of retaliatory trade measures is certainly a matter to be considered here, but the categorical rejection of a program that means much to South Dakota livestock producers, as well as consumers throughout the country, merits more than a mere yea or nay vote on a surrounding bill that has nothing to do with COOL, per se. Sans pushback or explanation, it doesn't say much for our congressional delegation.  

6 comments:

  1. Good post, John! The budget deal is such a mess, I don't know where to start.

    This Congressional Research report—

    https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22955.pdf

    —says that if we didn't repeal our current COOL to comply with a WTO ruling, Canada and Mexico were going to whack us with just over $1 billion in retaliatory penalties. This repeal apparently avoids those penalties. But I hear other countries have versions of COOL that don't violate WTO rules. Is that true? What sort of COOL could we impose that WTO wouldn't whack?

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    1. Australia has COOL labeling http://www.australian-meat.com/Foodservice/Proteins/Beef/Labeling_of_Australian_Beef/

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  2. Thx, Cory. I'll do some digging--mainly I'm annoyed that our delegation just let this thing go away with nary a whimper. When I was in the cattle biz it was a very hotly debated and emotional topic. My take was that COOL frustration was at the genesis of R-Calf, along with a couple of other matters. I can't believe that Noem, Rounds and Thune threw in the towel so easily on this one.

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  3. The death of COOL hides American livestock grown with hormones and antibiotics while protecting GOP donors: it's just that simple.

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    1. We as ranchers eat our product, there are natural hormones in the livestock already. Would you rather eat an animal that is sick? How close are you to a ranch or farm to know what it takes to raise livestock? How can we educate those that do not know what really goes on in an operation. Not just the hype that some groups want to raise.

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    2. Mr. Tsitrian would simply not publish a comment laden with the obscenities i'd fling at anyone slinging snot from the shadows.

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