This week the World Trade Organization ruled against Country of Origin Labeling for the third time. The organization’s compliance panel says USDA’s COOL is less favorable to meat imports from Canada and Mexico and more favorable to U.S. domestically produced meats. Colin Woodall, National Cattlemens Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs, says it means retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico are one step closer to reality. Those are two of this country’s top 5 meat export markets.
“And so we expect that we in the cattle industry will have some significant economic harm when that retaliation takes place, but it’s no longer just about beef or pork anymore. With the retaliation list that Canada has put out, it covers a whole host of commodities and products that will be hit. So we are talking about a hit to the entire U.S. economy, not just to the beef trade. And that’s what we’re concerned about as we’re now one step closer to that reality.”
Woodall says the NCBA position is to get rid of the COOL rule.
“We have looked at this every possible way that we can and there is no change that the secretary of agriculture can make that would bring Country of Origin Labeling in compliance with the WTO. This has to be a congressional fix and our position is that it’s time to get rid of COOL. We need to repeal it. COOL is lot like prohibition. It may have sounded really good at the beginning but when it was implemented it did not achieve what folks expected it to achieve. It was a failed experiment and ultimately it had to be repealed. That is what we’re seeing with COOL.”
He says after repeal industry led labeling programs should be allowed to communicate important information to consumers, replacing the stale, very plain government mandated marketing program.