The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-Calf) is urging the Obama administration to continue its defense of country of origin labeling for meat and meat products.
Last fall, Canada launched a World Trade Organization challenge of the U.S. meat labeling restrictions. That challenge was blocked by the United States. Now, R-CALF has listed reasons why it believes Canada has an unfair advantage with the COOL system.
COOL requires U.S. packers, feedlots and processors to keep strict records of where the meat was raised so retailers can mark the packages with an appropriate label. This has forced many U.S. meatpacking companies to stop or limit buying Canadian cattle due to the increased cost of keeping the animals and meat segregated. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association estimates the cost to the beef industry so far is around C$250 million.
R-CALF recently sent a letter to the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk claiming Canada should be considered in violation of WTO obligations because the Canadian cattle and beef sectors receive government subsidies.
"We believe Canada's subsidies on beef and cattle constitute an artificial propping-up of a Canadian cattle industry that is unsustainable at its present size but for those government subsidies," says R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard in a news release. "Further we believe that Canada's subsidies are inconsistent with the very [WTO] agreements that Canada claims the United States has violated vis-à-vis COOL."
He says the Obama administration "should not tolerate the Canada's ongoing practice of using the Canadian treasury to manipulate the U.S. cattle market by subsidizing Canadian cattle supplies and beef production at levels above what a competitive market can support."
Some observers see a certain irony in the fact that the Canadian government actions that R-CALF is criticizing were put in place to counter the effects of U.S. government actions promoted by R-CALF.