New U.S. secretary of agriculture says ‘COOL is a settled issue’

TORONTO — If American farm groups, legislators or even fellow members of cabinet come to him recommending that the U.S. reimpose country-of-origin labelling, Sonny Perdue won’t be encouraging them.

“I think what I would advise them is to persuade the World Trade Organization to change their mind (first),” the U.S. secretary of agriculture said in a June 5 interview. “In my opinion, COOL is a settled issue.”

COOL was decisively rejected by the WTO in 2014, and the final U.S. appeal was rejected in 2015. However, some American farm groups have renewed calls for it to be imposed. It is also a popular notion in some U.S. states that contain farmers who dislike seeing competition from Canadian livestock.

Many see President Donald Trump and his administration as protectionist, but Perdue is a notably pro-trade member and a promoter of increased U.S. trade of agricultural goods. Exports and market access are increasingly important for moving U.S. agricultural surpluses.

COOL was popular with many U.S. farmers but was a nightmare for U.S. packers and other U.S. farmers who had been buying Canadian weanling pigs or feeder cattle and found the integrated livestock market badly disrupted.

Perdue said COOL has been found non-compliant by the WTO, and “I think any trade relationships need to be compliant.”

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