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Harvest Public Media
Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Meat Labeling Rules Might Change

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Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media
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Rules that require more information on meat labels may be on the outs.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seemed to signal for the first time Friday that the rules are not compliant with World Trade Organization standards and must be fixed.

“We’ve done a 360-degree look and I can tell you that we do not think there’s a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law, which I’ve sworn to uphold, and to satisfy the WTO,” Vilsack said.

Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL, rules force retailers and meatpackers to detail where the livestock from which the meat came was born, raised and slaughtered.

Meat producers in Canada and Mexico have challenged the legality of the rules at the WTO, saying the labels unduly burden them by making their stocks less appealing to U.S. meatpackers, which have to separate and label meat not raised in the U.S.

The WTO ruled against the U.S. rules in October. The COOL rules were a “technical barrier” to trade, the ruling found, and it said they discriminate against meat imports. Mexico and Canada have threatened trade sanctions on U.S. products in retaliation.

Many meat industry groups that represent the largest meatpackers in the U.S. actually oppose COOL and have sued to stop it. A federal judge struck down the challenge in July 2013 and the rule has been in effect for months.

The U.S. could still appeal the WTO’s decision, and U.S. negotiators could still come to an agreement around the rules with Mexico and Canada.

Alternatively, Congress could change the rules. Congress could, Vilsack said, “give us different directions that would allow us to comport with the WTO ruling to prevent whatever potential retaliation may occur.”

Changing COOL standards would likely anger the coalition of groups that support the COOL rules – mostly groups of smaller farmers and meat producers – as well as some of the general public. Labeling the origin of meat products has consistently polled well among consumers.