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Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on Country of Origin Labeling

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at today’s hearing on country-of-origin labeling (COOL).

On Wednesday, Stabenow released a draft proposal that offers a pathway forward on COOL in the wake of the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling. Stabenow’s draft proposal would remove beef and pork mandatory labeling provisions under COOL and put in its place a completely voluntary Product of the U.S. label. A copy of that proposal can be found here.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing on country-of-origin labeling or “COOL” as we like to call it.

I would like to recognize the officials and industry representatives for testifying today. It is critical that we bring all stakeholders together to successfully address this issue.

COOL is a landmark law.

It empowers consumers to know where their food comes from – and is supported by America’s family farmers and ranchers who proudly raise the world’s safest, most abundant, most affordable food.

This partnership is big reason COOL has always enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in the Senate.

Even so, we are facing a very significant trade compliance issue that demands our full attention.

The World Trade Organization has spoken decisively regarding COOL’s effects on the beef and pork trade with Canada and Mexico.

Simply put, inaction from the Senate is not an option.

Not when the threat of retaliation is hanging over American agriculture and manufacturing.

Both sides of this debate—those who want to repeal COOL and those who want keep COOL—have been dug in for a long time on this issue.

And that entrenchment has not produced a path forward.

That’s why today’s hearing is so important. And we need all of our Senate colleagues to become full participants in this discussion as we move forward.

To help jumpstart that process, Mr. Chairman, I am offering a discussion draft of one option that I hope can be the basis for a bipartisan solution that can move quickly through the Senate and House. This approach includes two simple components:

First, the removal of beef and pork from the mandatory labeling provisions deemed non-compliant by the WTO.

Second, the establishment of a completely voluntary Product of U.S. label for beef and pork, very similar to the voluntary Canadian label.

It is my hope that this simple, WTO-consistent approach to addressing this dispute will help us find a solution that benefits American consumers and agriculture – while also finding a pathway forward between the United States and our neighbors to the north and south.

As a Senator whose home state borders Canada – I know firsthand the vital importance of protecting our North American trade relationships.

As always, I look forward to working with you – Chairman Roberts – and members of this Committee in a bipartisan way to accomplish this goal.

Thank you.