WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2013 – North Dakotans and Canadians share a border and lots of common interests, but when it comes to Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), at least one former North Dakotan – who now serves as President of the National Farmers Union – has had enough of hearing about how Canadians think Americans should govern.
“Recent threats by the Canadian Agriculture Minister are unjustified and out of line. As a sovereign nation, we should not take direction from Canada. They do not dictate what is compliant, it is the reason we have the WTO,” said NFU President Roger Johnson said in a strongly-worded statement.
President Roger Johnson issued his harsh comments following a conversation with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and just one day after Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz led a Canadian delegation to the annual North American Meat Association Outlook Conference in Chicago, IL, where he complained about the negative impact that COOL will have on the North American meat industry.
Last month, Tyson Foods announced it would not buy slaughtered cattle from Canada when the new rule goes into effect on Nov. 24 because COOL requirements will increase costs on the approximately 3,000 cattle it purchased from north of the border each week.
"COOL continues to hurt industries on both sides of the border, adding unnecessary red tape, delays, and costs to our integrated North American meat industry. US legislators have an opportunity now through the Farm Bill to end the economic harm that COOL is having throughout North America," said Minister Ritz. "Our government remains committed to pursuing all options available to resolve this dispute, including retaliation."
But despite Ritz’s concerns, Johnson is not buying any of the criticism over WTO compliance.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed its commitment and confidence in U.S. COOL laws on multiple occasions,” Johnson added. “The USTR has said several times publically that the changes contained in USDA's final rule will bring the current COOL requirements into compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling.
On September 25, 2013, a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel on COOL was established to determine whether measures found to violate WTO obligations have been brought into conformity.
While both Canada and Mexico fight COOL at the WTO, other meat industry groups are fighting the labeling law in US federal court. A wide variety of livestock and meat industry groups representing US, Canadian and Mexican interests filed an appeal of a US District Court ruling denying a motion for a preliminary injunction against implementation of COOL.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), along with Organization for Competitive Markets, United Farm Workers of America, American Grassfed Association and three independent livestock farms recently filed a brief supporting the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law in that same court.
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