Decision on COOL-blocking injunction due within two weeks

A coalition of Canadian livestock producer groups and U.S. meat industry players expects to know within two weeks if a U.S. court will halt Washington’s changes to mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL).

Lawyers for the coalition, whose Canadian members include the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Canadian Pork Council, presented oral arguments Tuesday at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. for an injunction against COOL revisions the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced May 23.

The groups filed a lawsuit in the District Court last month against COOL — but then filed a separate motion later in the month seeking a preliminary injunction to block the May 23 revisions, which the groups have said are even more onerous than the original COOL rules in place since 2008.

According to John Masswohl, director of government and international relations for the CCA, an injunction — if granted — would suspend USDA’s May 23 COOL overhaul, until the coalition’s case can be heard separately on its merits.

Writing on Twitter on Tuesday, Masswohl reported Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said she would issue a decision on the groups’ motion for a preliminary injunction “within 14 days.”

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

USDA in May, up against a WTO deadline to make COOL trade-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 CCA, for one, has previously said that where COOL has previously cost Canadian producers about $25 to $40 per head, USDA’s amended rule will increase the impact to about $90 to $100 per head.

According to one of the CCA and CPC’s co-plaintiffs, the American Meat Institute, lawyers for the U.S. government were to allege Tuesday that the plaintiffs “made the request (for a preliminary injunction) without demonstrating that they are entitled to the emergency injunctive relief they seek.”

The Canadian government also announced last week it has formally asked the WTO to set up a compliance panel to judge whether USDA’s changes to COOL meet the intent of the DSB and Appellate Body rulings.

The DSB will meet Friday (Aug. 30) to consider Canada’s request, according to the CCA. — Network

CLARIFICATION, Aug. 27, 2013: A previous version of this article noted the website for the District Court for the District of Columbia lists Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly as its Motions Court judge for the week of Aug. 26-30. Judge Kollar-Kotelly, however, did not hear the motion in this case.

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
U.S. groups file to intervene in COOL suit, Aug. 13, 2013
Canada wants Washington’s revised COOL back at WTO, Aug. 19, 2013

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