SCOTUS nominee upheld mandatory COOL for beef
July 11, 2018
BILLINGS, Mont. — On July 9, President Trump announced his nominee to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In 2014, Kavanaugh defended the constitutionality of the U.S. law requiring both domestic and imported beef and pork to be labeled according to where the animal from which the beef or pork was derived was born, raised and harvested.
The lawsuit against mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef was filed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and its cohorts Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas (a cattle trade group in Mexico), National Pork Producers Council, Canadian Pork Council, and four trade groups representing the meatpacking industry.
The NCBA and its domestic and foreign cohorts argued it was unconstitutional for the government to compel them to disclose the origins of domestic or foreign beef because they did not want to disclose such information to the public. They further argued that mandatory COOL was valueless because beef produced in a foreign country is identical to beef produced in the United States. "In short, beef is beef, whether the cattle were born in Montana, Manitoba or Mazatlán," the NCBA stated.
In an 80-page opinion, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the NCBA's and its cohort's arguments and upheld the constitutionality of COOL. The NCBA appealed the decision and a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit likewise disagreed with the NCBA and upheld the constitutional finding of the lower court.
Persistent, the NCBA and its cohorts sought an en banc appeal, in which 11 seated Circuit Judges would decide the case. This is where Kavanaugh entered as an ultimate decider of the constitutionality of COOL. In a 9 to 2 decision, with Kavanaugh in the majority, COOL was ruled constitutional. Soon thereafter, the NCBA and its cohorts asked that their case be dismissed.
Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion stating that while he supported the majority opinion to uphold COOL requirements for beef and pork, he believed it necessary to spell out each step of his own analysis.
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In his analysis, Kavanaugh stated, "Country-of-origin labeling, it is widely understood, causes many American consumers (for a variety of reasons) to buy a higher percentage of American made products, which in turn helps American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers as compared to foreign manufacturers, farmers and ranchers. That is why congress has long mandated country-of-origin disclosures for certain products."
Kavanaugh concluded that the government did have a substantial interest in requiring COOL labels on beef and pork to support American farmers and ranchers against their foreign competitors.
Kavanaugh further stated that "a country-of-origin label cannot be considered 'controversial' given the factually straightforward, evenhanded, and readily understood nature of the information, as well as the historical pedigree of this specific kind of disclosure requirement."
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said that Kavanaugh's finding that COOL causes many Americans to buy more American made products was recently reinforced by a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington that found that cattle producers demonstrated they had suffered financial harm after congress repealed mandatory COOL.
"Unfortunately, the past administration and past congress chose to kowtow to the NCBA and its cohorts and a collection of foreign interests at the World Trade Organization to repeal COOL even after our own judicial system found COOL to be valuable to America," Bullard said.
"We hope Judge Kavanagh will share his position on COOL with President Trump so U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers can, once again and soon, begin enjoying the benefits of COOL," Bullard concluded.