Originally published: The Hill
By Lydia Wheeler and Tim Devaney – 07/29/15
THE BIG STORY
Industry groups and top U.S. trading partners are pushing back against legislation to redesign an Agriculture Department meat-labeling rule found to violate international standards, arguing the regulations should be scrapped altogether.
In May, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) appellate body weighed in on the long-running dispute, siding with Canada and Mexico and ruling that the U.S. regulations put those countries at an unfair disadvantage in the U.S. marketplace.
The two nations are now threatening to impose a total of $3 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. food, agriculture and manufacturing if the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule is not fully repealed.
“In talking to Canada and Mexico, the only way to ensure we will never see retaliation is full repeal,” said Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Legislation aiming to replace the mandatory labeling rule with a voluntary program, introduced last week by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), doesn’t fix the problem, Woodall said.
The Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling and Trade Enhancement Act would allow processors to voluntarily label their meat products as “born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.”
But Mexico and Canada say Stabenow’s legislation will not resolve their concerns.
Other groups are calling on lawmakers to reject the legislation and uphold the COOL rule. A letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Stabenow, who is the ranking member,” said lawmakers should “defend consumers’ right to know where their food comes from.”
“These unapproved, unrealistically high retaliation claims are merely aggressive litigation tactics designed to frighten the United States — a standard practice in WTO disputes,” said the letter signed by groups like the American Agriculture Movement, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now! and Friends of the Earth U.S. “Congress should not fall for it.
ON TAP FOR THURSDAY
The House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine federal and state responses to avian influenza. http://1.usa.gov/1SGhHNC
The House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing to discuss worldwide cyber threats. http://1.usa.gov/1Ism2CF
TOMORROW’S REGS TODAY
The Obama administration will publish 168 new regulations, proposed rules, notices, and other administrative actions in Thursday’s edition of the Federal Register.
Here’s what to watch for:
–The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will propose new nutrition label guidelines for food manufacturers.
The draft guidance coming Thursday explains to food manufacturers how to label small amounts of nutrients and dietary ingredients in their products.
The public will have 60 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1eAX5ZC
–The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will propose new cybersecurity standards across the federal government.
The cybersecurity draft guidance provides a “framework for securing” information stored by federal agencies and government contractors.
“The threats facing federal information systems have dramatically increased as agencies provide more services online, digitally store data, and rely on contractors for a variety of these information technology services,” the agency writes.
“The increase in threats facing federal information systems demand that certain issues regarding security of information on these systems is clearly, effectively, and consistently addressed in federal contracts,” it adds. http://bit.ly/1DbCwie
–The Department of Energy (DOE) will delay new efficiency rules for residential conventional ovens.
The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy proposed new energy conservation standards for residential ovens in June, but is now extending the comment period to give the public more time to discuss the changes.
The public now has until Sept. 9 to comment. http://bit.ly/1DPBp2y
–The Department of Education will issue new priorities for the vocational training it provides youth with disabilities to help them find jobs.
The priorities ensure that state employees who work with these individuals are properly trained to “provide youth with disabilities with services and supports that lead to postsecondary education and competitive integrated employment,” the agency writes.
The changes go into effect in 30 days. http://bit.ly/1IskloV
NEWS RIGHT NOW
Drones: Amazon unveiled a plan for how regulators could control drone traffic in the nation’s airspace. http://bit.ly/1KzdITR
Labor: The pace of union elections is speeding up under a new rule from the Obama administration, according to a new study. http://bit.ly/1fInwgU
Meat labeling: Business groups are urging regulators to scrap controversial meat-labeling rules they say could spark retaliation from other countries. http://bit.ly/1eA2Arx
But food safety advocates are defending the meat labeling regulations from legislative attacks. http://bit.ly/1My5njH
Health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says one in nine children suffer from high blood pressure, in part because of high sodium levels in school meals. http://bit.ly/1My5zPS
BY THE NUMBERS
1 in 9: The number of children who have high blood pressure.
3,700 milligrams: How much sodium children are consuming on average per day.
2,300 milligrams: The recommended maximum amount of sodium Americans should consume.
(Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)