WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2015 - Canada and Mexico called on the Senate to eliminate the country-of-origin labeling law for meat, and Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts expressed confidence that a repeal measure would be included in a year-end spending bill.
Canadian and Mexican agencies issued a joint statement Thursday afternoon, noting that the World Trade Organization has authorized them to impose more than $1 billion in total retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports if the labeling requirements stay in place.“Canada and Mexico recognize that the U.S. House of Representatives repealed COOL for beef and pork last June, and we renew our call on the U.S. Senate to quickly do the same in order to avoid retaliation against U.S. exports,” the statement said.
Roberts, R-Kan., was scheduled to discuss the issue with Canadian officials by phone Thursday evening.
“I want to let them know that we stand at the ready to resolve this issue of retaliation,” Roberts told Agri-Pulse. He said the congressional leadership was committed to addressing the issue in a year-end fiscal 2016 spending bill that was still being negotiated.
In case the spending talks fail, Roberts said he was assuring the Canadian officials that COOL repeal would be addressed in an emergency bill. “I’m confident we will do this,” he said.
Roberts is less optimistic about reaching agreements on biotech labeling and school nutrition reauthorization that can be included in the omnibus.
Negotiations on legislation to block states from requiring GMO labeling have stalled, and the industry has been lobbying for a temporary preemption measure while long-term legislation is worked out. But the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Jeff Merkley, has raised objections to including even a short-term preemption provision in the omnibus.
Roberts said there may not be time to finish work on a school nutrition reauthorization bill in time to include it in the omnibus, and if necessary the committee will take up the legislation “very quickly in January ,” he said.
“We’re not that far apart on the policy. The policy we can work out,” he said. “I’m not so much worried about the policy as I am whether or not we can put it in the omnibus,” he said.
Congressional leaders had hoped to pass the omnibus by Friday, when the continuing resolution that is currently funding the government expires, but a new short-term spending bill was proposed in the House on Wednesday to fund the government through next Wednesday.
“While progress is being made on negotiations for a full-year omnibus appropriations bill, it is clear that more time is needed to complete the package,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.
He told reporters there were “several dozen” policy issues still being negotiated, including a provision to block the Obama administration’s “waters of the United States” rule. He said that the omnibus text likely wouldn’t be ready until next week.