On Thursday, Canada will be President Barrack Obama's first foreign visit. That may have something to do with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack's action to call off a scheduled press teleconference on Wednesday to discuss the final rule for mandatory country-of-origin labeling.
According to a report in Meatingplace.com, Vilsack is expected to issue a letter to the meat industry regarding his views on COOL. Media reports reflect that the secretary intends to ask the meat industry to voluntarily follow more stringent COOL guidelines, and that if the industry does not comply, the administration would write new rules.
COOL's interim final rule went into effect on Sept. 30, 2008. A comment period followed, changes were made and the final rule was published in January. That final rule was to go into effect on March 16, but the new presidential administration put a hold on all such rules initiated in the Bush administration's final days.
Reports now are that USDA will implement the final rule on its planned effective date of March 16, but that some changes would be made.
Reports are that on Tuesday Canadian officials said they would be resubmitting a World Trade Organization complaint against U.S. COOL laws if the Obama administration decided to change them. Canada (and Mexico) filed a WTO complaint against the interim rule, but liked what unfolded in the final rule when the Bush administration offered a bit of flexibility in the labeling options.