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Canada objects to COOL rule

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has vowed to analyze the recently-released U.S. Department of Agriculture’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule to “determine the economic impacts on integrated North American markets.”

In a July 30 statement, Ritz expressed disappointment with U.S. COOL legislation, saying it “may discriminate against Canadian products.”

He also hinted at possible trade action against the rule.

“Should the implementation of the rule result in undue restrictions on the exportation of any products or animal from Canada, the government will have to consider its options,” Ritz said.

USDA published the interim final COOL rule this week. It goes into effect September 30.

The mandatory rule, part of the 2008 U.S. Farm Bill, requires American retailers to label certain products according to their country of origin. Those include: muscle cuts of beef, veal, chicken, goat and pork; ground beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork; fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities, and a few other small items.

Canada views COOL as a non-tariff barrier to trade. Canadian livestock groups particularly oppose it, fearing the requirement to segregate products by country of origin will damage their exports to the U.S.

A Canadian Cattlemen’s Association official said the rule as published appears a mixed bag for cattle exporters.

John Masswohl said requirements to segregate feeder cattle born in Canada and finished in U.S. feedlots may not be as onerous as first thought. But Canadian fat cattle shipped to slaughter in U.S. plants appear to require full segregation.

This will likely mean slaughter cattle from Canada will be price-discounted in the U.S. because of the extra labeling expense, Masswohl said.

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