Survey reveals few U.S. shoppers aware of COOL law

Canadian livestock producers continue to suffer while awaiting the U.S. appeal of a WTO ruling against COOL

The ongoing fight against country-of-origin labelling law in the United States has cost Canadian pork and beef producers billions of dollars.

Yet a recent consumer survey on food demand from Oklahoma State University found limited knowledge about the law.

It found that fewer than a quarter of those surveyed knew that meat animals’ country of origin was required by law on labels in stores. Thirty-nine percent believed it was not required and another 39 percent didn’t know.

“This whole mess is there to satisfy 22 percent of the population,” Calgary rancher Larry Delvar said at the Alberta Beef Producers annual meeting held in Calgary Dec. 1-3.

“They know what the labelling is, but people buy on price.”

The United States filed notice at the end of November that it was appealing the most recent World Trade Organization ruling on COOL.

A WTO panel ruled in October that COOL violates trade rules because it treats Canadian and Mexican livestock less favourably than U.S. livestock. A decision on the appeal may not come until summer.

“How can we keep winning at the WTO and the thing doesn’t get any better?” said John Masswohl, who handles trade issues for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

He compared it to the Stanley Cup hockey championship, in which a team must win four games to earn the trophy.

“We’ve won three. We’ve got to win four,” said Masswohl.

“The end result is inevitable. We are going to win the dispute and we are going to win this appeal.… This appeal is based on interpretation of law on the set of facts that existed with respect to the 2013 rule change.”

WTO recently ruled that the change the U.S. made in 2013 was not what was required and that the new regulation made it worse.

Canada published a list of targets 18 months ago that includes a range of food products, beverages and consumer goods manufactured in the states of politicians who favour COOL. The retaliation could include 100 percent tariffs that would double the price of an import.

“In essence, for products that are on that list and have the tariffs imposed, they won’t be imported. The tariff will make it prohibitively high,” Masswohl said.

“Until they start to feel the pain and start to hear it from people who vote for them, that is what it is going to take to get that change.”

The decision to appeal came two months sooner than many expected.

“Those retaliatory tariffs are at least two months closer than they thought,” said Masswohl.

The CCA and other livestock groups are aligned with the COOL Reform Coalition, which comprises 109 national trade associations and businesses. The coalition wrote to members of Congress Nov. 21 urging a contingency plan to protect U.S. jobs and exports.

The full letter and more information can be found at www.COOLReform.com. The November survey data for the Oklahoma State University food demand survey can be found at agecon.okstate.edu/faculty/publications/4934.pdf.

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