Country of origin labelling still top of mind at NCBA

Beef industry leaders from Canada, United States, and Mexico are meeting in San Antonio, Texas this week at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Cattle Industry Convention. Representatives from all three countries discussed the progress on ratifying the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

With Mexico and the U.S. ratifying the deal, Canada is the lone country left to ratify, and that process has finally begun.

The purpose of the trilateral beef leaders meeting at the NCBA meeting every year is to work on common issues among the three countries. Wednesday’s meeting was opened with an update from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association on Canada’s timeline to ratify.

“We updated the groups on the impact of the Canadian election and the timeline to potentially be approved in the house in February and the Senate by late March,” says John Masswohl of the CCA, in an interview from the convention floor.

From the cattle perspective, Masswohl does not see any implementation roadblocks as the deal “essentially locks in what we already had and liked in NAFTA.” There is not a whole lot that changed, really, but time is still of the essence.

According to Masswohl, “If we did not get moving on the new one (USMCA) that the chances increased they would rip up the old one (NAFTA),” which was a threat of the (U.S.) president throughout the talks, on top of the Sec 232 tariffs.

Top of mind for the industry is also mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL). “They do not want to go back to mandatory COOL at NCBA but other groups are constantly pushing for it.” he says. “Having said that there are some concerns, such as if beef is imported into the U.S. in a box and undergoes processing at a USDA federally approved facility it can be labelled as ‘product of the U.S.’ That’s a concern. If it was happening in Canada we would be concerned. The U.S. does not have the minimal processing requirements for labelling that Canada has in place to guard against this kind of labelling practices.”

There is a proposal being considered from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association to look at some sort of source verification procedure. Canadian officials are supportive of source verification but want to ensure they’ve fully considered unintended consequences.