Last weekend, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told the 2014 National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) convention that there is no regulatory fix for country-of-origin labeling (COOL).
After the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ruling in favor of Canada and Mexico in an ongoing dispute with the U.S. over COOL, a team at the Department of Agriculture studied the issue and found that there is no regulatory fix that would be consistent with U.S. law as it exists and also satisfy the WTO.
“One of two things needs to happen,” Vilsack said at the NAFB convention. “Either our Canadian and Mexican friends need to tell us more clearly and more specifically what, if any, variation of this will work for them, or Congress has to give us different directions that would allow us to comport with the WTO ruling to prevent whatever potential retaliation may occur.”
The latest U.S. labeling rules, put into effect in 2013, require meat sold in grocery stores to indicate the country, or countries, where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
According to the WTO report released in October, the labeling rules unfairly discriminate against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products. This was the second time the WTO has ruled against the U.S. in this dispute. After passing mandatory COOL rules in 2008, the U.S. amended COOL in 2012 following an earlier WTO ruling against it.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will decide whether to appeal the latest ruling and Vilsack has previously said that an appeal would not be filed until January 2015.