CCA not surprised by latest COOL development

The U.S. government has been granted an extension to appeal the controversial country-of-origin labelling (COOL) law.

In November, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favour of Canada and Mexico’s position that provisions of the COOL law discriminated against live hogs and cattle imported into the United States. The U.S. government was recently given an extension to file an appeal on the ruling, which must now be filed by March 23.

The extension was not a surprise, and gives the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association extra time to influence the U.S.’s decision, said John Masswohl, the CCA’s director of government and international relations. The CCA maintains the law has not benefited U.S. livestock producers since it came into effect in 2008.

“The extension gives us some additional time to get U.S. officials to realize that this law is not in their best interests,” said Masswohl.

The CCA maintains that since the COOL law came into effect it has increased costs for U.S. companies that import live Canadian cattle and reduced the competitiveness of those Canadian cattle south of the border.

It also maintains the law has forced unnecessary costs on U.S. meat processors, which currently must either segregate Canadian animals and meat for labelling purposes or limit their imports from Canada.

COOL requires American retailers to have labels listing the country of origin for foods such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, fish, fruits, vegetables, peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts.

Masswohl said his association does not dispute there is legitimate interest from consumers about the origin of their products.

“What we’re looking for is a surgical amendment that would address the discrimination of imported livestock,” Masswohl said.

Proponents of the COOL law, such as the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF USA), argue it should apply to livestock. R-CALF contends Canada introduced mad cow disease into the U.S., and that Mexico “continually reintroduces bovine tuberculosis (TB) into the United States.”

Data obtained and released by the CCA in early January said U.S. imports of Canadian feeder cattle fell by about 480,000 head in the first 80 weeks after the COOL measure came into effect. Prior to the COOL measure, the CCA says feeder cattle exports to the U.S. were 10,494 head per week in 2007 and 8,372 head in 2006.

The CCA has not gone public with a dollar-value assessment, as such costs “may well become a point of arbitration” if Washington refuses to bring COOL in line with the WTO panel ruling.

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