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Can NAFTA renegotiations help revitalize rural America?

Since NAFTA passed, American grocery stores and dinner plates have been flooded with beef from Canada, Mexico and elsewhere severely impacting the American beef industry. Reinstating Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL can benefit U.S. cattle producers.

October 30, 2017

While many across America have focused (rightly) on the wreckage of American factories caused by the North American Free Trade Agreement, many more families also saw their livelihoods impacted as NAFTA hammered America’s beef industry.

As a family farmer in Brewster and a Local Union president who represents several thousand meat packing workers across Kansas, we can both speak to how flawed NAFTA has been for our families and friends.

Since NAFTA passed, American grocery stores and dinner plates have been flooded with beef from Canada, Mexico and elsewhere severely impacting the American beef industry.

Since 1995, fifty beef slaughter plants have closed, costing thousands of jobs. The U.S. cattle herd is now the smallest it has been since 1941—the year the U.S. joined in World War 2. This is not an industry that has been thriving under free trade. In fact, since NAFTA was passed, 13 to 17 percent of US domestic beef consumption has been met with imported beef.

In 2001, as an attempt to salvage some of the American meat industry, Congress passed labeling requirements that required fresh meat flooding into America be labelled with their country of origin. This requirement of Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL as it’s known, didn’t restrict the free trade of any of the meat coming into this country—but instead let consumers make an informed and free choice about where their food came from.

However, under pressure from global meat companies, our partners in NAFTA—Canada and Mexico – filed complaints with the World Trade Organization forcing the U.S. to repeal our labeling requirements. Now back at the negotiating table for reconsideration of NAFTA, the U.S. government should use its current leverage to convince Mexico and Canada to allow the U.S. to reinstate COOL and benefit families employed in the beef industry across America.

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Tags:   Supporting America    Cool    Country of Origin Labeling    NAFTA
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