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Keep Heat On COOL, Livestock Groups Say

Livestock groups and the processing sector must record any example of Canadian shipments to the United States being hampered by the latest iteration of America’s COOL program, say farm leaders and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“The industry has to document any case that violates our trade agreements with the Uni ted States ,” John Masswohl, Ottawa representative for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, told the organi zat ion’s recent annual meeting. While the latest U. S. proposal is less damaging than what the Bush administration originally proposed, “We need to figure out what it’s costing us. It’s important to the process that we gather as much information as possible.”

The flashpoint in the dispute is a directive by U. S. Ag Secretary Thomas Vilsack to that country’s food companies to voluntarily detail country-of-origin labelling on their packages or he will make it mandatory.

Ritz met Vilsack in Washington in March to spell out Canada’s case that what he is proposing goes against international trade rules and if it becomes harmful to Canada, Ottawa will resume its trade action at the WTO.

But for now Ritz wants to see how the American program works out and that’s why he’s appealed to the industry for detailed information to bolster Canada’s case.

Jurgen Preugschas, chairman of the Canadian Pork Council, has asked Ritz to continue “his dialogue with the secretary and other U. S. officials. We are of the view that the highest levels of the U. S. administration must be alerted to the severe consequences of this latest turn in COOL not just for Canadian exporters but U. S. farmers dependent upon feeder animals from Canada and hundreds of U. S. meat processors purchasing livestock and meat for further processed meat products.”

The Pork Council is concerned about USDA’s decision to request processors to go beyond the country-of-origin information required under the COOL Final Rule, and voluntarily include additional information about what production step occurred in each country when multiple countries appear on a label. “We have a serious concern over the negative impact such uncertainty will continue to cause the industry while we are left to wonder what direction the secretary intends to take.”

Ritz says his meeting with Vilsack was frank and that Canada would closely monitor the implementation of the new rule. He said the secretary was well aware of Canada’s readiness to resume its trade action. Canadian producers likely face six months of angst seeing how the Vilsack’s directive plays out.

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