Gerry Ritz, Canada's Agricultural Minister, says COOL regulations set in place by the United States are costing his country over $1 billion annually, and he’s ready to retaliate if changes aren’t made.
Ritz addressed the North American Meat Association in Chicago earlier this week regarding country-of-origin labeling regulations and current and impending losses affecting his country’s livestock producers.
Tyson Foods Inc. has decided to stop buying slaughter-ready Canadian cattle, claiming the extra procedures would be too costly under the COOL regulations. The decision ends exports of 3,000 head of cattle shipped to the U.S. for processing weekly.
While Canada and Mexico are challenging COOL before the World Trade Organization as a U.S. trade barrier, Ritz is taking advantage of current discussions on the new farm bill to get the U.S. to back off COOL regulations. He says the current negotiations are an “ideal opportunity” for Canada to increase pressure on government officials to make a change.
"The farm bill is one of the president’s top priorities. It’s certainly an ideal time to increase the pressure, to make amendments in the farm bill — that would be the quickest fix," Ritz said in an interview with CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange on Tuesday.
Ritz says COOL is a political solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. He’s counting on industry allies Canada has within the U.S. who oppose the regulations. Those contacts have attempted to stop the policy with a court injunction.
According to Global News, Ritz said 100 senators and congressmen have also signed on to support the industry-led court action.
“That would have been unheard of a year ago,” Ritz said in a conference call from Chicago. “So the ground has shifted, the tide has changed and we feel very confident we can move forward with this repeal of COOL through the farm bill.”
While other options remain for Canada with export opportunities to Europe, Ritz says retaliatory measures towards the U.S. could be in play if COOL moves forward. Actions could include restricting imports of U.S. products.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson responded, saying Ritz’s threats are unjustified and out of line. He says other countries have similar laws in place and the U.S. will not take direction from Canada.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed its commitment and confidence in U.S. COOL laws on multiple occasions. The USTR has earlier said several times publically that the changes contained in USDA's final rule will bring the current COOL requirements into compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling.”