Canada considers responding to COOL with import tariffs

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The labeling rules facing opposition from U.S. processors and the Canadian agricultural industry remains in the Farm Bill as Canada’s agriculture minister plans his response.

The Country of Origin Labeling rules initially taking effect in 2008 require meat labels to state where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Many U.S. processors worried about the extra costs that could occur by accepting cattle raised outside the United States area choosing to only work with animals within the country’s borders.

Tyson announced in October it would stop accepting cattle directly from Canada to avoid added expenses associated with separating cattle under the country-of-origin labeling rules.

Canada's agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, says the decision is costing his country’s agricultural industry roughly $1 billion per year. The impact is forcing the leader to contemplate his response with action ranging from returning the dispute to the World Trade Organization, to an all-out trade war.

The Canadian Press reports Ritzs is hoping to avoid extreme measures and considers tariffs a “last resort” as they would be costly to both his country and the U.S.

WTO siding with Canada could lead to tariffs on U.S. exports of meat, grains and fresh fruit as early as 2015.

WTO arguments for the COOL case are planned for Feb. 18.

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