by SUSAN MANN
Canadian livestock groups vow to continue fighting the United States Department of Agriculture’s revised Country of Origin Labelling laws despite a refusal by an American court to grant a temporary injunction halting the revisions’ implementation.
The USDA introduced changes to the law May 23. They are scheduled for implementation in November. The changes were introduced after a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel ruled in July 2012 the original rules don’t comply with the country’s WTO trade obligations. But the amended rules make Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) even more onerous than the previous rules, Canadian livestock groups assert.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and the Canadian Pork Council joined a coalition of American and Mexican meat and livestock organizations to challenge the amended rules in the U.S. court system. Now that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia turned down its request to temporarily block the amended regulation, the coalition says it will seek an expedited appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to overturn the decision.
But it’s unlikely the appeal, if granted, will be heard before November. Dennis Laycraft, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president, says technically the COOL revisions are already in effect but “there was a six-month education period.”
Laycraft adds, “what we’re hearing is it may take a while for the appeal to be heard.”
The coalition wants the temporary injunction to stop the amended COOL rules from being enacted as part of a larger court action filed on July 8 seeking to strike down the labelling law revisions.
The coalition says irreparable harm to the American meat and livestock industry will result if the USDA is permitted to fully implement its revisions to the labelling law. There will also be more harm to the Canadian cattle industry, CCA says in a Sept. 11 press release.
The Canadian beef industry has lost about $640 million a year since 2008, when the original labelling law was implemented. But the amended law will double beef farmers’ losses, which will jump to about $40 a head from $25 a head currently.
Martin Rice, Canadian Pork Council executive director, says they don’t have a dollar figure on additional losses for pork producers due to the changed COOL rules. But if the amended rules lead to American companies being able to make less use of Canadian-born pigs in their marketing, “it makes less sense for them (the companies) to buy them.” The pork council will monitor the amended COOL rules after their November implementation to determine if they lead to any reduction in opportunities for Canadian producers to sell their pigs into the United States.
Both Canadian groups are also supporting the federal government as it seeks further action from the WTO. The government wants the WTO to establish a compliance panel – a process that could lead to retaliatory tariffs if the Americans’ revised rule is found to be non-compliant with the United States’ trade obligations.
Rice says the Americans vetoed the Canadian and Mexican initial request in August to the WTO dispute body to establish a compliance panel. But now Canada and Mexico will be filing a second request on Sept. 25, and the “United States cannot veto that one,” he notes.
Rice says the American veto is standard procedure and Canada also uses that option when it’s the subject of a WTO dispute challenge.
Another avenue the Canadian groups are pursing is legislative change by the U.S. Congress. BF