WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he’s collaborating with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on the next steps in a dispute with Canada and Mexico over USDA’s mandatory country-of-origin labeling rule (COOL).

Vilsack’s comments were in response to a July 30 letter from 114 House Members who urged him to withdraw the May 2013 rule if the World Trade Organization determines the U.S. is not compliant with WTO obligations. A WTO panel has completed its report on the matter and has informed the governments involved of its findings but the decision has not been made public. The findings are expected to be made public later this month.

“It is imperative that the United States continue to show that we will honor our trade obligations and that we will support America's farmers, ranchers and processors,” Vilsack wrote the lawmakers, according to the American Meat Institute. “We will continue to work closely with you to find that balance,” he said.

There have been numerous reports that the WTO ruled against the U.S. Sources told the Wall Street Journal that the agency determined that the U.S. rules – which require mandatory labels on meat packages identifying where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered -- were unfair, reinforcing a previous ruling from 2012 that prompted the U.S. to revise its rules.

Canada and Mexico have argued that the labeling rule put their meat exports at a disadvantage on the market. Canada has said that, since 2009, exports of pigs and cattle to the U.S. have declined.


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