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Agricultural News

Report of US Losing Second Time in COOL Rule Dispute Angers Two Populist Groups

Mon, 25 Aug 2014 04:33:51 CDT

Report of US Losing Second Time in COOL Rule Dispute Angers Two Populist Groups The Wall Street Journal reports the World Trade Organization has sided with Canada and Mexico in regards to U.S. Country of Origin Labeling rules. the Wall Street Journal, cited "sources familiar with the panel's confidential report." Canada and Mexico have asked for the World Trade Organization's help against new U.S. COOL rules. The Wall Street Journal story adds that "The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the new rule after a WTO finding in 2012 that an earlier version was discriminatory. But Canada and Mexico said the amended rule was even more onerous, and limited exports of cattle and hogs into the U.S from their countries. The animals end up being sold at a discount to those from the U.S., they said.

In July, the WTO decision was provided to the governments, but will not be made public until it's translated which could be weeks or months. WTO rules give the United States 60 days to appeal from the date the report is published.

Supporters of COOL say U.S consumers have a right to know where their food originates from. Opponents say the rule would be costly and burdensome. Last month, a U.S. Appeals court in D.C. upheld COOL rules. The nine judges who ruled in favor of USDA's rules stated the government has a "substantial" interest in requiring meat processors to label where livestock was born, raised and slaughtered, including food safety concerns.

At least two supporters of the COOL Rule put in place in May, 2013 are not pleased with the reporting being done by the Wall Street Journal. Both the US Cattlemen's Association and the National Farmers Union have released statements blasting the publication for "irresponsible journalism" in reporting the US has lost for a second time in the attempts by the Obama Adminstration to write a WTO compliant rule.

US Cattleman President Jon Wooster released the following statement this past Friday:

"An article has been published relating unsubstantiated rumors from unnamed sources that the WTO has ruled against the U.S. in the trade dispute over U.S. COOL. It is notable that this article emanated from Ottawa and, of course, occurs before the public has any opportunity to know what the panel decision says. The WTO report is not scheduled to be released publicly until September. Until the WTO report is released, articles like this one are based merely on the claims of unnamed individuals and, in my opinion, amount to irresponsible journalism. USCA will not comment on a WTO panel decision that we have not received and is not yet in the public domain."

"The intent of the United States is to comply with our trade obligations with regard to COOL. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Trade Representative have worked diligently to achieve that goal while implementing domestic law. But it is important to remember that the process at the WTO does not end with the panel report. All parties (the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) have the right to appeal any issues decided by the panel that they perceive to be adverse to their interests. Presumably, one or more of the parties will pursue an appeal if the panel decision is against their views of WTO rights and obligations."

"COOL supporters can be assured that USCA is following this closely and will respond appropriately when a decision is publicly released. We have full confidence in the actions that USDA undertook, at the end of the first set of challenges, to address underlying concerns. We expect the U.S. will have been vindicated. To the extent the panel finds any problems with the revised U.S. regulation, we are sure the U.S. will review its options, including taking an appeal to the WTO Appellate Body."

Meanwhile, Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union, released a statement that echoed the unhappiness expressed by Wooster:

"Let's be crystal clear. These are unsourced and unsubstantiated rumors and we can't and won't comment on a WTO report that we have not yet seen and is not yet public. Nor should anyone else. There is often a tendency for these things to leak out; and they are sometimes accurate and sometimes not accurate. But what they almost always do is tell a small, biased, one-sided part of the story. Speculation, at this point, is not only meaningless, but also irresponsible.

"As such, any talks of trade retaliation is fear mongering and grossly pre-mature. We've been hearing these stories from some of our good friends in Canada for a long time, and the U.S. has always said it will comply with WTO rules. In fact, the rules around which these rumors are now based were written precisely to conform with the most recent WTO rulings, so this will surely figure into the final decision."

At the Summer Cattle Industry Conference earlier this year, Farm Director Ron Hays talked with the Ag Minister for Canada, Gerry Ritz. He was careful as he talked to reporters at the meeting to not reveal what he knew about the WTO decision, but did say it was time for US lawmakers to consider repealing the mandatory elements of the COOL rule- and let the marketplace sort out the labeling issue. You can hear Ron's conversation with Minister Ritz by clicking here.



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