Ag Today June 7, 2018

Federal judge in Spokane dismisses suit seeking to reinstate country-of-origin labels on imported meat

Thomas Clouse, The Spokesman-Review, June 7, 2018

Where’s the beef from? For now, it remains a mystery.

A federal judge in Spokane this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by domestic livestock producers to reinstate country-of-origin labeling on beef and pork products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture halted such labeling in 2016.

U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson agreed with the producers in her Tuesday dismissal that the USDA decision has caused them financial harm. But she ultimately sided with the government, saying that the legal clock had run out for the producers to challenge the underlying 1989 federal law, and that the U.S. Congress had clearly intended to have the labeling end.

“With regard to both USDA regulations at issue, Congress spoke directly to the question of country of origin labeling requirements, and the court must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress,” Peterson wrote in her decision.

Even though the lawsuit was dismissed, an attorney representing the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action League Fund, United Stockgrowers of America and Cattle Producers of Washington said the trade organizations will continue efforts to restore the labeling.

“The fact that the court agreed with us that independent pork and beef producers are harmed by (no country-of-origin labeling) makes it even clearer that the Trump Administration and Congress must act now to protect them,” lead counsel David Muraskin said in a news release.

Meat producers filed suit in Spokane last June after Congress passed a bill that called for the USDA to remove the country-of-origin labeling requirements.

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