After 13-plus years of opposition — the last seven of those in legal and trade disputes, Canadian livestock producers and their organizations are celebrating the end of U.S. country of origin labeling legislation for beef and pork today.
Both the U.S. House and Senate voted in favour of the omnibus appropriations bill that includes text to repeal U.S. COOL earlier Friday. President Obama signed off on the legislation later in the day.
“Effective immediately, USDA is not enforcing the COOL requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork outlined in the January 2009 and May 2013 final rules,” said U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday afternoon.
Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Dave Solverson called it “fantastic news for Canada’s beef cattle producers.”
“The CCA initiated this fight in 2008 because the U.S. failed to live up to its international trade obligations. In the seven years since U.S. COOL has been in effect, the cumulative losses for the Canadian beef and pork sectors have been staggering,” said Solverson.
Rick Bergmann, chair of the Canadian Pork Council, echoed his beef counterpart.
“Challenging the US COOL has been a long and expensive fight for Canadian producers,” he stated. “We look forward to the President signing the Bill to avoid retaliatory action and closing the book on this dispute.”
Never mind the economic cost the discounting of Canadian livestock had on the industry as a whole, the CCA said its legal fees fighting COOL were approaching $4 million.
After exhausting all dispute settlement options through the World Trade Organization, Canada and Mexico were on the verge of implementing US$1 billion in tariffs on American exports to make up for damages caused by the labeling rules.
A COOL Timeline:
May 13, 2002 — The 2002 U.S. Farm Bill becomes law, requiring retailers to inform consumers of the country of origin for perishable agricultural commodities.
June 2002 — Canadian hog sector representatives distribute pamphlets opposing COOL at the World Pork Expo in Iowa.
2003 and 2005 —Implementation of mandatory COOL for cattle and hogs is delayed.
June 18, 2008 — The 2008 U.S. Farm Bill becomes law, maintaining the 2002 Farm Bill mandate to implement COOL.
August 1, 2008 — The US Department of Agriculture’s interim rule for COOL is published.
September 24, 2008 — Shaun Haney publishes the first post on RealAgriculture.com.
September 30, 2008 — The interim rule for COOL takes effect. Canadian cattle and hog values are discounted and exports drop as U.S. packers begin to segregate animals to meet the labeling requirements. Rather than tracking Canadian cattle and pigs, U.S. meat packing companies refuse to accept them — COOL Rears Its Ugly Head.
January 20, 2009 — Barack Obama becomes U.S. President.
March 16, 2009 — The final rule for COOL is implemented, making country of origin labeling mandatory for muscle cuts and ground beef (including veal), pork, lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and ginseng.
April 28, 2009 — Minister for International Trade Stockwell Day (yes, he was still trade minister then) announces that Canada will request consultations at the WTO regarding COOL. Mexico joins Canada in asking the World Trade Organization to review COOL in mid-May.
November 18, 2011 — The WTO Dispute Panel rules in Canada’s favour, saying COOL discriminates against Canadian livestock in the U.S. market. (The first ruling against the U.S.)
March 23, 2012 — The U.S. government announces it will appeal the WTO Dispute Panel ruling.
June 29, 2012 — Following the appeal process, the WTO upholds the Dispute Panel ruling that COOL results in less favourable treatment to imported Canadian cattle and hogs than to domestic cattle and hogs. An arbitrator later sets the deadline for compliance as May 23rd, 2013. (The second ruling against the U.S.)
May 23, 2013 — U.S. Implements Changes to COOL — The U.S. government tweaks COOL with new labeling requirements, arguing the changes bring the legislation into WTO compliance. The Canadian and Mexican governments disagree, saying the amendments increase the discrimination against imported livestock.
June 7, 2013 — The Canadian government publishes a list of U.S. products that could face retaliatory tariffs totalling approximately $1.1 billion (the list can be found here.)
September 25, 2013 — The WTO grants Canada’s request for a compliance panel to decide whether the May 23rd, 2013 changes to COOL meet the Americans’ international trade obligations.
February 7, 2014 — Cattle Industry’s Beef Ignored, Farm Bill Signed Anyway — Barack Obama signs the 2014 Farm Bill, extending provisions for COOL.
October 20, 2014 — WTO Rules Against U.S. on COOL (Again) — The WTO Compliance Panel sides with Canada again, saying U.S. amendments to COOL continue the discrimination against live imports of cattle and hogs. The past-president of the Canadian Pork Council discusses the possibility that proceeds from retaliatory tariffs could be used to reimburse livestock producers for losses caused by COOL. (The third ruling against the U.S.)
November 28, 2014 — U.S. Appeals WTO mCOOL Ruling (Again); Appeal Postpones Possible Sanctions — Again, the U.S. government appeals the WTO compliance panel ruling.
February 2015 — U.S. Makes Final Argument for COOL at WTO. Ag Minister Gerry Ritz declares “COOL is on life support.”
May 4, 2015 — USDA Finds Little, if any, Economic Benefit From COOL — a USDA study finds COOL does not translate into increased consumer demand, and benefits do not offset higher production costs and retail prices.
May 18, 2015 — WTO Appellate Body rules in Canada and Mexico’s favour again — the fourth and final ruling from the WTO on COOL. Canada seeks permission from the WTO to implement retaliatory tariffs on American imports.
June 4, 2015 — Canada’s trade and agriculture ministers — Ed Fast and Gerry Ritz — formally request permission from the WTO to implement $3 billion per year in sanctions for damages caused to the Canadian cattle and hog industries.
December 7, 2015 — The WTO gives Canada permission to implement retaliatory tariffs worth up to C$1.055 billion per year.
December 18, 2015 — The U.S. House and Senate vote in favour an omnibus spending bill that includes language to repeal COOL. President Obama signs off on the legislation.