WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2015 - Retaliatory tariffs from the country-of-origin labeling dispute could be here before Christmas, according to the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, but timing of legislative action to address the issue might have to wait.

“All members of the Ag Committee have put in time to develop workable solutions. Ultimately, the WTO arbitration panel could announce the retaliatory tariffs amount that Canada and Mexico can implement on U.S. exports by Dec. 7,” Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said. “I’m told by trade experts that as soon as Dec. 18, Canada and Mexico could implement those tariffs.”

The actual size of the tariffs remains unknown and there is a wide range of speculation. Canada and Mexico are seeking combined retaliation in the neighborhood of $3 billion, but some COOL proponents think the retaliation amount will be around $500 million. Those in favor of full repeal contend that regardless of that actual amount, retaliation will have real impacts on U.S. businesses and will damage the country's relationship with Canada and Mexico.

Many agricultural organizations are in favor of full repeal of COOL, which passed the House in June. Concerns over the broad scope of retaliation have rattled those both inside and outside of agriculture, but the sanctions would likely hit agricultural products the hardest.

In a letter to Roberts and ranking minority member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., National Association of State Departments of Agriculture President Greg Ibach said COOL needs to be swiftly repealed “to facilitate ongoing access for U.S. agricultural producers to two of their most important export markets, without the threat of retaliatory measures.”

In July, Stabenow worked with North Dakota Republican John Hoeven to introduce a bill that would make COOL voluntary, but Canada and Mexico have expressed opposition to the measure, saying it continues the “born, raised, and slaughtered” labeling requiring segregation of live animals, a major crux of the trade dispute.

During a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson urged support for the Hoeven-Stabenow amendment for voluntary COOL.

“The voluntary program will allow for those who would like to use an origin label to continue to do so, while preventing labels from being misused or misleading.”


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