Canadian officials look for more anti-COOL friends

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, February 29, 2012 -Canada is counting on livestock interests south of the border to help persuade the Obama administration to forgo an appeal of a World Trade Organization ruling against the U.S. country- of-origin labeling (COOL) program.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz raised the issue with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack last week during a meeting in Washington. And he later paid a call on anti-COOL voices in the U.S. livestock sector to enlist their help. The administration has until March 23 to appeal the mid- November WTO ruling, which upheld complaints by Canada and Mexico that mandatory COOL violates trade rules and discriminates against livestock exports to the United States.

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Vilsack “kept his cards close to his vest” on whether an appeal was forthcoming,” Ritz told reporters.The meeting with his U.S. counterpart was not on Vilsack's public schedule. The USDA Chief made mention of it during an appearance in Orlando at the end of the week.

In Ritz' meeting with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, American Meat Institute, National Meat Association and top beef processor JBS, whom he described as “allies,” there was agreement that it would be better for both countries “if the Administration would do what's necessary to end the restrictive nature of COOL as soon as possible.”

Like beef and pork producers in Canada, “the U.S. livestock industry has also been hit hard by COOL, given our fully integrated value chain,” Ritz said, noting “They've seen processing plant closures and they suspect there will be more capacity issues soon.”

The National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA and other longtime advocates of the origin labeling program have urged the White House to file an appeal. Many observers don't believe an appeal would produce a different result. Canada, Mexico and possibly other countries could place punitive tariffs on U.S. goods if Washington does not act to address the panel's findings.

In the meantime, Ritz said Ottawa would lobby American lawmakers to repeal COOL, which debuted in the livestock title of the 2008 Farm Bill, during upcoming negotiations on new farm legislation.Eliminating the livestock title is NCBA's top goal for the farm bill reauthorization.

“We must do whatever we have to do to relieve cattlemen from the big government games

delivered to us courtesy of the livestock title,” the group said in a statement to Agri-Pulse.


Original story printed in February 29, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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