Representatives from the US dairy industry say it is “critical” that Congress solve the trade dispute over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) to block the progress of Canada and Mexico imposing damaging new tariffs on dairy exports. In a letter to the Senate, the National Milk Producers Federation, U.S. Dairy Export Council and International Dairy Foods Association expressed “growing apprehension” that retaliatory tariffs are drawing closer following a finding that parts of the US country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
“[We] urge the Senate to pass legislation to bring the US into compliance with its WTO obligations without further delay,” the groups said, asking the Senate to work collaboratively on an outcome that both Mexico and Canada will agree on.
The country-of-origin labeling law, or COOL law, would require a label to be placed on meat packages detailing where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Consumer groups lobbied for the rule, but Canada and Mexico complained about it to the WTO, which sided with them. Labels were first implemented in 2009 to provide shoppers more information about the origin of their meat. The labels were then updated in 2013. The US House of Representatives voted in June to repeal COOL requirements for beef, pork and chicken. Under threats of trade retaliation from Mexico and Canada, the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act was passed by a vote of 300-131.
Last spring, the WTO ruled against the COOL law, saying Canada and Mexico could retaliate against US exports. American dairy products have been on Canada’s target list for retaliatory tariffs following the ruling.
“Retaliation against dairy products would come at a particularly challenging time for our industry, given the currently depressed global dairy market which makes sustaining exports in reliable markets all the more critical,” the letter states. “On the farmer side of the industry, multiple cooperatives have already been faced at times this year with oversupplies of milk, causing them to dispose of excess milk at a loss. Retaliatory tariffs would back up exports further onto the US market during this time of overly abundant milk supply.”