Following the October 20 release of the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision on the U.S. meat labeling law, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) urged the Obama administration and Congress to fix the law to avoid trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico.

As expected, the WTO ruled that the mandatory Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) statute violates U.S. international trade obligations by discriminating against Canadian cattle and pigs and Mexican cattle. COOL requires meat to be labeled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and slaughtered. The decision could allow the two countries to place tariffs on U.S. imports.

“The United States must avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico,” said NPPC President Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa. “Retaliatory tariffs on pork would be financially devastating to U.S. pork producers.”

But, pointed out Hill, tariffs likely would be placed on a host of U.S. products, including non-agricultural ones.

As it did in a 2012 ruling on a previous version of COOL, the WTO requested that the United States bring the “inconsistent measure into conformity with its [international trade] obligations.”

NPPC opposed COOL when it was being debated by Congress as part of the 2002 farm bill, worked for flexibility in the labeling scheme when lawmakers said it would be part of the 2008 farm bill and joined with several other meat organizations in filing a lawsuit against the most recent iteration of the regulation implementing the law.

NPPC supports an approach to labeling that provides important information to consumers, complies with U.S. international trade obligations and does not undermine U.S. meat supply chains and unnecessarily raise costs.

"The United States economy can't afford to have its products restricted, through tariffs, to its No. 1 and 2 export markets," Hill said. "Congress and the White House need to address this now."