A Washington federal court has granted summary judgment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a lawsuit filed by ranchers and cattle producers challenging the agency’s regulations governing the removal of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef and pork. Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund v. USDA, No. 17-0223 (entered June 5, 2018). The complaint alleged that the 2016 COOL Requirement Removal Rule conflicted with the Tariff Act of 1930, which stated that “every article of foreign origin . . . imported into the United States shall be marked . . . in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article.”

The court found that the relevant provisions in the 2016 rule were enacted to comply with World Trade Organization (WTO) decisions finding that the COOL requirements of the Agricultural Marketing Act discriminated against imported meat. The court held that USDA’s implementation of the 2016 rule “directly reflects statutory language enacted by Congress” and that “the Court must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Because the plaintiffs had not shown USDA’s actions to be arbitrary, capricious or unsupported by substantial evidence, the court dismissed the complaint with prejudice and granted summary judgment to USDA.

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