COOL or Not-So-COOL?  

An Overview and Discussion of Country of Origin Labeling

 This webinar took place on Thursday, November 14th.




The debate over Country of Origin Labeling, or “COOL,” has intensified since mandatory COOL for several products – including beef, pork, and lamb – was included in the 2002 Farm Bill.  More than ten years later, this debate is still being held in all three branches of the United States government as well as before the World Trade Organization.   Generally speaking, COOL proponents assert that consumers have a right to know where their food comes from and that COOL economically benefits U.S. producers as a result of consumer preference.  Opponents – including Canada, Mexico, and some U.S. meat processors — generally argue that such labeling is unwarranted, costly, and protectionist.  Exactly how competing views and overlapping challenges will play out is far from certain, but the implications for producers, trading partners, consumers, and others can be significant.

Do consumers have a right to know where all of their food comes from?  And, if so, is it possible to legally require this information on food labels in a way that does not create undue economic hardship, violate U.S. constitutional law, or violate international trade law? Is COOL compelled speech? Does COOL prevent consumer deception?  This webinar will address these and other key questions surrounding the program as well as allow participants to address questions to the presenters.

The webinar is designed to be useful designed to be useful to anyone — attorneys, lobbyists, policymakers, extension personnel, producers, and others — with an interest in Country of Origin Labeling. It will begin with a synopsis of COOL, including its recent history and status.  It will then continue in a point/counterpoint format for discussion of key legal and policy issues.


Link to Webinar Recording

*Continuing Legal Education:

While this presentation is designed to be relevant for both attorneys and non-attorneys, it has been approved for 90 minutes of Continuing Legal Education credit in Arkansas. However, many other states allow attorneys to earn credit through reciprocity or self-submission.  For more information about other state accreditation requirements, the ABA has assembled a resource here.

For attorneys outside the state of Arkansas who wish to apply for CLE credit in their state, the National Agricultural Law Center will be happy to provide any needed documentation or materials necessary to submit to their state Bar.  For any assistance needed in this regard, please contact Rusty Rumley at



Harrison Pittman

Director, National Agricultural Law Center

Harrison received his Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, after attending Mississippi State University and graduating from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He then earned an LL.M. in Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Graduate Program in Agricultural Law. He has worked at the Center since 2001.  During that time, his title and job duties have spanned the range of graduate assistant, staff attorney, co-director, interim director and currently, director; in which capacity he has served since 2007.

He is an active member of the American Agricultural Law Association (AALA), the nation’s only professional organization focused on the legal needs of the agricultural community, and was the first recipient of the AALA’s Excellence in Agricultural Law award in 2010.  Additionally, he is an active member of the Arkansas Bar Association, where he helped found the Agricultural Law Section, later served as interim chair and chair, and currently serves as vice-chair.  He is a frequent presenter on a range of topics and issues, including the farm bill, water law, and environmental law. He has authored articles on numerous subjects, including the National Organic Program, the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, the constitutionality of corporate farming laws, pesticide regulation and litigation, agritourism, states’ recreational use statutes, the Packers and Stockyards Act, agricultural bankruptcy issues, and environmental laws impacting agriculture.


 J. Dudley Butler

Farm and Ranch Law Group

Mr. Butler has recently returned to the practice of law after spending almost three years as Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. He was appointed to this position by United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Mr. Butler’s leadership greatly improved the relationship between the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice and he spearheaded the creation of the first USDA/DOJ task force to address corporate concentration in the livestock and poultry industries. Under Mr. Butler’s leadership the rights of family farmers and ranchers were enhanced by the passage of new regulations and the vigorous enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Upon his departure Secretary Vilsack stated “I want to thank J. Dudley Butler for his outstanding service as administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration,” “President Obama and I believe fair and competitive markets are critical to the success of American agriculture, and Dudley has worked tirelessly to advance this cause.

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard stated “Mr. Butler did exactly what he was appointed to do by proposing a rule that would have restricted the corporate meatpackers’ ability to exercise abusive market power against independent producers and R-CALF USA greatly appreciates Mr. Butler’s historic effort.

Mr. Butler has been an attorney for over three decades and is a mediator and arbitrator. His practice has primarily focused on farm and ranch related disputes as well as other agriculture related matters. In addition to working on these agricultural related matters, he’s been involved in his own cattle, timber, and farming operations in Mississippi as well as in Wyoming. As part of his livestock operations, he has also been an active member of numerous livestock and farm organizations. He has testified numerous times before Congress on matters involving agriculture and arbitration and served on a mandatory price reporting task force that lead to the passage of a Mandatory Price Reporting law by Congress.


John Dillard

Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz P.C.

Mr. Dillard concentrates his practice on litigation, with an emphasis on government contract, environmental, and agriculture-related litigation.  Mr. Dillard has represented clients in complex matters involving Clean Water Act disputes, livestock odor nuisance tort actions, and government contract regulations.  Mr. Dillard also advises clients in the food and agricultural industries regarding the impacts of litigation, government regulations and legislation on their businesses.

Mr. Dillard, who grew up on a beef cattle farm in Amelia, Virginia, adds value to OFW Law clients by drawing upon his extensive background in agriculture.  He received bachelor’s of sciences in Animal and Poultry Sciences and Agricultural and Applied Economics from Virginia Tech.  He also earned a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University.

Prior to entering the legal field, Mr. Dillard worked for a consulting firm that advised agribusiness clients (seed, renewable fuels, cooperatives, equipment) in marketing and strategic development.  Additionally, Mr. Dillard was an economist for USDA’s Economic Research Service, where his work focused on preparing farm income reports and reports examining the financial health of the agricultural sector.

Mr. Dillard writes extensively on legal issues affecting agriculture.  His blog, Ag in the Courtroom, is featured on  Mr. Dillard also writes a column for Farm Journal, Legal Ease.  In addition to his writing, Mr. Dillard has appeared on national TV and radio agricultural programs to discuss legal issues that affect agriculture.

Research & Materials


Discussion Points- Butler

Discussion Points- Dillard

Webinar Presentation

CRS: Country-of-Origin Labeling for Foods and the WTO Trade Dispute on Meat Labeling (Jurenas & Green, 9/16/13)

For general information about COOL, visit our topical reading room.

Selected court filings:

Amended complaint by NPPC etc.

Memorandum in support of motion for preliminary injunction by AMI etc.

Memorandum in opposition to motion for preliminary injunction by AMS

Reply to opposition to motion for preliminary injunction by AMI etc.

Memorandum and opinion denying motion for preliminary injunction

Answer to amended complaint by Food & Water Watch etc.

Appellant brief by AMI (appeals filing 9/23)

Amicus for appellee brief by Food & Water Watch (appeals filing 10/25)

Appellee brief by NFU (appeals filing 10/28)

Motion to intervene by HSUS (appeals filing 10/30)

Response in opposition to HSUS’s motion to intervene by AMI (appeals filing 11/6)