Canadian sheep producers remain stranded by country-of-origin labelling (COOL) restrictions, even as beef and pork producers have seen relief.
According to Herman Bouw, Manitoba sheep producer and director of the Manitoba Sheep Association (MSA), COOL continues to affect the sector, isolating it from the U.S. market, due to active lobbying from the American sheep industry.
“Everyone in pork and beef has seen some progress but there are still other sectors being affected by this,” said Bouw. “The U.S. has not lifted COOL from lamb and sheep and I believe it is because of diligent lobbying from the American sheep industry.”
The MSA held its annual general meeting in mid-February, when the organization passed a resolution to aggressively pursue strategic alliances with sector partners to lobby both the federal and provincial governments to work towards rescinding the COOL provisions.
In the resolution, MSA specifically noted the COOL provisions to be a protectionist movement by the American Sheep Industry.
“Manitoba used to be very active in the exportation of ewes and heavy lambs into the States and now that option is no longer there,” said Bouw. “We have been left scratching our heads, trying to figure out how we can work with the new federal minister of agriculture and see if there isn’t some way to get this lifted.”
The impacts of the trade restrictions were highlighted this fall when the heavy lamb market saw an increase in animals, along with a drop in prices.
“It is a bizarre situation and it actually became quite apparent it was a negative thing for use this fall,” said Bouw. “There was a glut of heavy lamb in Western Canada and with the Canadian dollar being as poor as it was, it should have lent itself to sending our heavy lambs into the American industry.”
According to Bouw, the heavy lamb market saw an excess number of animals in the fall due to drought conditions in Western Canada, which caused a number of lambs to be pulled off the grass early.
“The drought conditions in Western Canada caused those lambs to be backgrounded sooner than what normally would have occurred and so the market was flooded slightly,” said Bouw.
Bouw is also the Manitoba representative on the Canadian Sheep Federation (CSF), the national organization responsible for bringing issues that are affecting the industry to the attention of the federal government. He said the CSF has met with the new minister of agriculture and he is aware of the situation and stated he would make an effort to get a resolution.
“We are hoping to get this dealt with sooner rather than later but it doesn’t look like it is going to be a very quick resolution to this from where we sit right now,” said Bouw.