Is COOL finally dead and gone?

CALGARY — Canadian cattle and hog producers want country-of-origin labelling to stay dead and buried.

The U.S. based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association shares that view.

“All of you sitting here know that COOL is a failed policy,” NCBA government affairs vice-president Colin Woodall said at last week’s Canadian Beef Industry Conference.

“The good news is, the president and his team have made it very clear that they understand that COOL failed and that there is not going to be a push to put COOL back into the NAFTA negotiations.… Right now things are looking pretty good that we can keep COOL at bay.”

After costing Canadian producers an estimated $1 billion in lost trade and income, the World Trade Organization quashed COOL in 2014 and the U.S. lost an appeal in 2015.

Canadians now fear that COOL or an ugly cousin might reappear as part of the Donald Trump administration’s America First mantra or as part of ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations.

In a later interview, Woodall acknowledged that talks around the new farm bill might raise the labelling issue internally, but he thinks the appetite for a revival is faint.

“We do have a farm bill that is coming up, but when you look at the members of our House and Senate agriculture committees, the ones that are riding this farm bill, all of them are veterans of the old COOL fights, and they don’t want to bring it back either,” he said.

“So even though we may hear some rhetoric about somebody trying to run a bill or an amendment, we do not believe that there is any credible way that COOL is going to come back to life.”

He said COOL failed in its goal to increase beef demand.

“Before COOL went into place, the conversation was all very philosophical: ‘well, if we just put a label, we’d do better,’ ” said Woodall.

“But we had COOL for six and a half years and it didn’t provide any single benefit, especially not the ones that the proponents claimed.”

Woodall said R-CALF, an American cattle group and proponent of COOL, isn’t likely to gain traction with the Trump administration.

“The good news is that R-CALF does not have a strong presence in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

“Even though we have seen a resurgence of R-CALF in the countryside and we see a lot of rhetoric out of them, it’s still just (R-CALF chief executive officer) Bill Bullard with his laptop… It’s not translated into any major ability to influence rules, regulations or law in Washington, D.C,. right now.”

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