[imgcontainer right] [img:4dd8aa6c0b7d2.image_.jpeg] [source]Casey Riffe/Billings Gazette[/source] This seems like the umpteenth day in a row we’ve featured a weather photo on the front page. We’ve been negligent about the flooding in eastern Montana. Here, neighbors help homeowner John Schafnitz, left, sandbag the berm in his backyard on Jene Helene Avenue as Blue Creek floods. Great coverage in the Billings Gazette. [/imgcontainer]

The World Trade Organization has ruled against COOL, or Country of Origin Labeling.

The ruling is not yet final, but in its current form it backs arguments from Mexico and Canada that laws requiring meat to show its country of origin on a label violates world trade rules. The interim ruling was circulated to the U.S., Mexico and Canada on May 20, according to Reuters

Reuters said this WTO ruling is significant because it addresses “subtle trade barriers — including standards on health, safety or consumer information — that can hit demand for imports.” A ruling knocking down COOL for meat would lead to challenges of other labeling challenges.

“The WTO is going to hear many more cases on standards such as consumer labels. The findings of the COOL case and others show labeling schemes have a very real chance of being ruled illegal at the WTO,” said a person familiar with the issue.

The ruling was supported by the National Cattemen’s Beef Association. “This ruling is unfortunate for the U.S. government but the consequences of a poor decision have been revealed. We fully support WTO’s preliminary ruling,” Bill Donald, president of the NCBA, said in a statement.

“We want consumers to be able to support our U.S. cattle industry by differentiating and selecting U.S.-grown beef from the growing volumes of imported beef sourced from over a dozen foreign countries,” Mike Schultz, of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), said in a statement.

• Flooding that began in Montana will sweep into Iowa and the Dakotas. More rain is expected over the weekend. 

The Billings Gazette reports that the Red Cross Shelter at Montana State University in Billings is filled. There are emergency evacuations all over the western part of the state. 

Rinderpest, the bovine equivalent of measles, has been eradicated. It is only the second disease ever to be totally removed from the planet. Smallpox was the first.

Rinderpest has been causing periodic human famine for centuries. In the late 1800s, Rinderpest entered Ethiopia and caused starvation that killed one-third of the human population. 

• Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is “slowly disappearing,” says a state demographer. This is an AP story from the UP that is not very hopeful. It should come with a “downer alert.” 

• Jennifer Jacobs reports that many of Mitt Romney’s supporters in Iowa from 2008 “have scattered or have so far declined  to commit to support the potential presidential candidate, partly because he has campaigned so lightly here so far.”

Writing in the Des Moines Register, Jacobs reports that Romney is just now making his first appearance in Iowa this year. 

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