U.S. groups file to intervene in COOL suit

Four U.S. groups have asked for intervenor status against a joint U.S./Canadian/Mexican lawsuit to shut down U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL).

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the National Farmers Union — a Washington-based farmer group, not to be confused with Canada’s or Britain’s NFUs — on Friday filed their motion to intervene with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.

The groups’ motion follows a July 25 filing by the suit’s plaintiffs — which include the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, seven U.S. livestock producers’ and meat processors’ groups, and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations — for a preliminary injunction to halt implementation of the U.S. government’s recently-amended COOL rules.

The plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction — scheduled to be heard at the District Court on Aug. 27 — follows their July 8 filing against the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt the labelling rules.

Lawyers for the U.S. government also recently filed a brief opposing the motion for a preliminary injunction against COOL.

According to one plaintiff, the American Meat Institute (AMI), USDA’s lawyers allege the plaintiffs “made the request without demonstrating that they are entitled to the emergency injunctive relief they seek.”

COOL, in place in the U.S. since 2008, was ruled out of order by the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in 2011 and WTO Appellate Body in 2012 for discriminating against Canadian and Mexican livestock and meat.

But USDA in May, up against a deadline to make COOL WTO-compliant, revised COOL’s labeling provisions for muscle cuts of meat, requiring labels to include even more specific information about where each of the production steps (born, raised, slaughtered) took place. USDA’s new rule also removes the previous rule’s allowance for commingling of muscle cuts.

The plaintiffs warn of “irreparable harm” without a preliminary injunction to halt the revised COOL rules.

The AMI said in a statement Monday that it and the other plaintiffs have “taken no position on the motion (from the four proposed intervenors) but reserved the right to respond following receipt of the pleadings.”

“Expedited”

If they get intervenor status at the District Court, the USCA said it and the three other proposed intervenors “will be presenting arguments in defence of the (USDA’s) regulations on COOL.”

“The plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction has expedited our filings with the court,” USCA president Jon Wooster of San Lucas, California said in a separate release Friday. “Our counsel in Washington has been working hard to get papers prepared and filed today to hopefully permit our voices to be heard at the important preliminary injunction hearing phase.”

“We have worked long and hard on this issue and will do so until these arguments are put to rest and the (COOL) law remains intact once and for all,” Roger Johnson, a former North Dakota state agriculture commissioner and now president of the U.S. NFU, said in a separate release.

USCA said the four groups hope a decision on their intervenor status will be made in the near future but “there is no specific time limit for such decisions.” –– AGCanada.com Network

Related stories:
Canadian, U.S. meat industry groups take COOL to court, July 9, 2013
Meat coalition seeks preliminary injunction in COOL case, July 26, 2013

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