Statement from Danni Beer from Keldron, S.D., the Region X Director for the U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) and she chairs USCA's COOL Committee.
"The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) has received word that Mexico has joined Canada in filing complaints before the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenging the U.S. country of origin labeling law (COOL). USCA has also been notified that Nicaragua has filed a request to join the consultations requested by Canada.
"Sources close to the WTO say Mexico filed its official complaint on Thursday, December 17 at WTO headquarters in Geneva. A copy of the complaint has not been made publicly available at this point. The Nicaraguan request to join the Canadian consultations was filed on December 15.
"Some media reports that are emerging on the matter are not accurate. An Associated Press story dated December 18 indicates that under COOL "foreign cattle and pigs must be segregated in U.S. feedlots and packing plants." It also reports that foreign animals are "required to have more documentation about where they come from and, in the case of cattle, must have tags that indicate they are free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)." Canadian and Mexican cattle and Canadian pigs are not required to be segregated in feedlots in the U.S. under the labeling law.
"The documentation required for importation is a result of animal health issues in Canada and Mexico and these requirements have nothing to do with COOL. The only possible increase in documentation requirements falls on U.S. livestock.
"The COOL law does not require that Canadian, or Mexican cattle for that matter, have tags indicating they are free of BSE.
"It is very important that accurate information be provided to the public regarding the COOL law, the rules associated with the law and the WTO challenge by Canada and Mexico. As a USCA Director and long-time proponent of COOL, I encourage the media to seek accuracy in reporting on the issue to preclude misinformation and confusion and I am very willing to help in that endeavor.
"Interestingly, the challenge by Canada and Mexico is being made before the Final Rule for COOL has been published. At this time, the Final Rule is under review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and no timetable for publication has been issued.
"These challenges trigger a consultation period between the affected nations. If the dispute cannot be resolved through the deliberative process, then the complaining nations can request that a dispute settlement panel be convened to arrive at an equitable resolution. The time period for consultations is short.
"The U.S. Cattlemen's Association is committed to a vigorous defense of COOL during the WTO deliberations. We are in regular contact with the federal authorities in charge of this process, we are monitoring the situation very closely and we will be forthcoming with information as soon as it becomes available. "