It’s back to square one for plaintiffs in a federal court case opposing new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules, but officials say a U.S. District Judge's decision last week to deny a request for a preliminary injunction to stop USDA from implementing the new mandatory rules does not represent the end of the game.

"We have to remind everybody that this is one of many steps we are looking at to try to find relief from country of origin labeling. There are others,” reports Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) vice president of government affairs.

NCBA is one of nine organizations that joined together to file a lawsuit July 8 designed to stop USDA from going forward with plans to implement the new rules in the weeks ahead. Other plaintiffs include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations.

This round of events related to COOL is but the latest in a string of developments since the COOL program was first authorized in 2009. The policy requires that most fresh foods, including meat, indicate the country or countries where the product was born, grown, raised and slaughtered on the product’s label.

But the policy has come under fire a number of times, starting with formal objections to the rules brought before the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the Canadian and Mexican governments, who argued the labeling program was unfair and in violation of North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) guidelines.

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In late July, WTO sided with sponsors of the complaint when they ordered USDA to revise labeling requirements for beef, pork, chicken and lamb in order to meet WTO compliance requirements. In response, USDA did revise the original rules concerning labeling of meat products, but plaintiffs argue those changes further complicate the original rules and require even more stringent labeling changes that will cost more and are discriminatory against Canadian and Mexican meat and livestock companies without providing any additional security to U.S. consumers.

Plaintiffs had asked for the preliminary injunction to stop USDA from implementing the new rules until the full lawsuit could be heard in court. They argued the rule exceeds the authority granted to USDA in the 2008 farm bill and is "arbitrary and capricious, offering little benefit to consumers while fundamentally altering the meat and poultry industry."