According to a news source, the federal court that heard a challenge to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) revision to its country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling stated during the hearing that it would issue a decision on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction within 14 days. Am. Meat Inst. v. USDA, No. 13-1033 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.D.C., oral argument held August 27, 2013). Additional information about a dispute that has split trade associations representing different parts of the meat production industry appears in issues 490 and 495 of this Update.
The organizations seeking the injunction reportedly argued that “[t]his is a regulation the agency concedes is a de minimis benefit . . . for a de maximus cost.” They contend that the new rules violate their First Amendment rights and could put them out of business. A USDA attorney apparently argued that the new rule “provides more information” and that food-label accuracy was its critical aim. The court did not indicate how it would rule, but noted that the statute requiring COOL “says American consumers need to know where the meat comes from.” Asking attorneys representing both sides of the dispute whether Congress approved a law that cannot be implemented without triggering an international trade dispute, the court also reportedly observed that the “co-mingling” of meat products across borders, which the plaintiffs contend will be banned under the rule, is the real issue, that is, the “dog being wagged by the tail of the labeling.” See Politico, Law360 and Grainews.ca, August 27, 2013.