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December 5th, 2013

ALEC’s Attack on Country of Origin Labels

By Tyler Shannon

The right wing, Koch brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-big business organization that works to gut environmental protection, attack labor rights and pass discriminatory voter identification laws, is now lining up with meatpackers and factory farms to try to prevent consumers from knowing where their food comes from.

ALEC is a reactionary, pro-business group disguised as a nonprofit that writes and lobbies for state legislation and “model bills” that put business interests ahead of the public interest. Its members include numerous large corporations and Republican legislators. Some companies, such as Amazon and Coca Cola, have actually chosen to pull out of ALEC after learning of the sweeping range of its radical legislative agenda. ALEC has been the subject of IRS complaints for lobbying while hiding behind its nonprofit status.

This week at ALEC’s annual policy summit, it is jumping into food and farm policy on the side of giant agribusiness interests, not American farmers and consumers. ALEC will vote on a resolution supporting the elimination of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat and poultry products. U.S. farmers and consumers overwhelmingly support COOL. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and farmers are proud to sell livestock born and raised in America.

But ALEC is siding with international meatpackers, factory farm feedlots and international livestock trade associations. The ALEC resolution notes that COOL is “creating challenges for Canadian and Mexican cattle and hog producers,” but there is not one mention of U.S. farmers or consumers. Instead, ALEC wants to prevent U.S. consumers from being able to buy meats from animals born, raised and slaughtered in America.

ALEC’s attack on COOL coincides with a sneak attack on COOL in the last gasps of the farm bill process. ALEC’s transparent support of the meatpackers over farmers and consumers is another in a long line of policies that put corporations first. But Congress should know better. COOL has wide and deep support and was included in both the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. Tell Congress to reject the retrograde attack on COOL by ALEC and its meatpacker masters and keep the commonsense labeling measure that Americans overwhelmingly support.

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