WASHINGTON – After ruling against the United States on USDA’s controversial country of origin labeling rule, the World Trade Organization will likely sanction Canadian and Mexican tariffs on U.S. exports.
Country of origin meat labels make it more economical for packers to track domestic livestock and to distance themselves from imported livestock. Treating domestic products different from imports violates U.S. trade obligations as a WTO member.
The House Agriculture Committee has sent a bill to the House floor repealing country of origin labeling for beef, pork and chicken, but not other commodities. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst was asked about the timeline for a similar bill from the Senate Agriculture Committee in a conference call Wednesday.
“I have not heard a timeline coming from Chairman Roberts,” explained Ernst. “As a matter of fact, I was joined by some young cattlemen this morning. They visited with me about that very issue. So there are a number of proposals out there. I know we have discussed it just amongst our members here in the Senate. But as far as a timeline in the Senate Agriculture Committe, I haven’t heard that from Pat Roberts yet. We will continue to work on that issue.”
It remains unclear whether or not the House Ag Committee approach of a partial repeal will be enough to avoid trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico.
“We will have to continue in those discussions” Ernst said. “Of course we have received pushback from the WTO. So we need to find what will be acceptable to these nations, but also protects our own American producers and consumers.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is a staunch supporter of country of origin labeling; but in a different conference call Wednesday, he told reporters that after multiple WTO decisions against the labels, only two options remains.
“Either we find a WTO-compliant way of keeping COOL, or else,” says Grassley, “if we don’t succeed there, then I’m going to have to vote for repeal.”
To hear more about lawmakers’ progress on avoiding trade retaliation from the WTO, click the audio player above this story.