Iowans split on party lines as House repeals country-of-origin labeling for meat

The U.S. House voted yesterday to “repeal country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken products.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has required meat products to list the country of origin since 2009 and most recently revised the rule in 2013.

Multiple polls have found that some 90 percent of American adults support country-of-origin labeling for meat. U.S. courts have repeatedly upheld the rule. However, last October the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of a challenge brought by Canada and Mexico, saying the U.S. labeling rule unfairly discriminates against imported meat products. Last month the WTO rejected the U.S. appeal of that decision, though advocates of the rule say reduced consumer demand for imported meat stemmed from the “Great Recession” beginning in 2008, rather than from labeling requirements. A broad coalition of farm, labor, environmental, and consumer groups have long opposed any change to country-of-origin labeling. This week, 282 organizations urged the U.S. House not to repeal the rule, while more than 100 business and industry groups advocated repeal to avoid retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

Yesterday House members easily passed the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015 by 300 votes to 131 (roll call). Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 234 GOP representatives to support the bill. The Democratic caucus was more divided, with 66 House members in favor of repealing the labeling rule and 121 opposed. Iowa’s Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against the bill.

Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters this week, “I’m still a supporter of COOL (country-of-origin labeling) but I also recognize the rule of law and international trade has to be respected and I want to respect it.” Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill, “The White House has not issued a Statement of Administration Policy regarding the [country-of-origin labeling] legislation.”

UPDATE: King spoke on the House floor in favor of this bill; you can view his remarks here. Among other things, he said the current labeling rule penalizes Iowa farmers raising pigs that were born in Canadian farrowing operations.

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