The United States government has missed a World Trade Organization deadline to end discriminatory practices against Canadian beef, and the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) is not happy.
The WTO had given the US until May 23 to bring its Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws into compliance with international trade standards. That deadline has passed, with no positive action from the Americans. The SSGA urges Canada to get set to retaliate.
“This is more than disappointing, it’s outrageous,” says SSGA President Harold Martens. “Canadian producers, through their associations and the government, have been working for months to restore fair trading rules to the beef industry. Not only has the US administration failed to comply, they may make matters worse.”
The COOL measures are ostensibly to help consumers identify where their meat was born, raised, and slaughtered. The WTO had ruled that the laws place expensive administrative and logistical burdens on US handlers of imported hogs and cattle. As a result, farms, feedlots, and packing plants hesitate to buy beef cattle that come from Canada or Mexico. Rather than take down the barriers, the US has proposed new regulations that add to the already burdensome red tape.
“This is costing our industry over $640 million a year,” Martens says. “And that doesn’t include the $2 million from our checkoff fund that we’ve had to spend fighting this.”
The federal government is weighing its retaliation options.
“We’re waiting to see what the government comes up with,” says Martens. “We expect the measures to be aggressive, and we’re fully prepared to support them. The Canadian beef industry and the whole integrated North American beef market are being threatened, and we will not back down until fair trade is restored.”