The United States Department of Agriculture issued the final rule for mandatory country-of-origin labelling earlier this week and Canada’s cattle producers hope the changes will ease some market uncertainty.
The final regulations will allow for more flexibility on labelling requirements in the U.S. for meat from animals of American and Canadian origin that are brought together during a production run.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says they still oppose the mandatory labelling and consider it a barrier to trade, but hope the latest changes will improve the situation some.
According to Brad Wildeman, CCA President, the changes provide the same flexibility for use of a mixed-origin label on beef or pork derived from animals imported direct-for-slaughter, as now exists for use with a mixed-origin label on products derived from U.S.-origin animals.
“This should provide U.S. buyers of Canadian cattle and pigs greater flexibility in managing their inventories,” Wildeman says. “We hope this approach enables U.S. facilities to resume accepting Canadian cattle for immediate slaughter along with Canadian-born cattle fed in the U.S. We also hope that this flexibility eliminates, or at least reduces, price discounts by U.S. packers for Canadian cattle.”
Federal officials agree the provisions in the final rule help level the playing field for Canadian beef and pork producers, and state it will strengthen the integrated North American livestock industry.
Gerry Ritz, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, says the final regulations address concerns Canada has raised. Work will continue to prevent any unfair harm to the industry, Ritz says. Stockwell Day, minister of International Trade, agrees.
“The bottom line is that the changes to the final rule will help to keep livestock trade moving throughout the integrated North American market and will benefit producers, consumers and processors,” Day says.
Since COOL was proposed, Canada’s beef industry and government have repeatedly raised concerns the labelling could impose unfair costs, especially on Canadian livestock producers, by requiring the segregation of Canadian animals.
Most recently, Canada and the U.S. held formal consultations under the World Trade Organization regarding the adverse impact of the interim regulatory measures on Canadian livestock and meat producers.
The U.S. and Canada are each other’s largest agricultural trading partners. In 2007, bilateral agricultural trade totalled $32.3 billion.