A bipartisan effort by senators in the United States could see a return to country-of-origin labeling for beef products.
A bill is under consideration in the US Congress and is expected to be put to a vote in the coming weeks.
Head of U.S. beef industry lobby group R-Calf, Bill Bullard, said the new legislation aims to level the playing field for U.S. beef producers.
“We believe it is vitally important that our US beef producers can distinguish their exclusively US-produced beef in the domestic market,” Bullard said. “This is fundamental to being competitive, because only if consumers have the option of choosing that they can send demand signals throughout the supply chain as to where livestock must come to satisfy their particular demand. “
The latest effort comes after two Republican senators and two Democratic senators introduced the American Beef Labeling Act to the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in September.
The initial efforts of the United States to adopt mandatory country-of-origin labeling, known as mCool, began in 2002 with the passage of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act.
After a seven-year delay, this law came into effect in 2009, but was challenged by Canada and Mexico through the World Trade Organization.
This legislation was repealed in 2015 after the WTO ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico, paving the way for retaliatory tariffs.
As for mCOOL’s non-compliance with trade regulations, Bullard said he didn’t think it should be a problem.
“We have pretty much every other product that continues to be labeled with their country of origin labeling and the beef happens to be an outlier,” Bullard said.
He said he does not understand the Canadian producers’ argument that their product can only compete in the US market if its origin is not clearly indicated.
According to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, any relaunch of mCOOL will also restore the WTO ruling. This would allow almost $ 1 billion in tariffs to be imposed on the United States by Canada and Mexico.
According to the CCA, it would be up to the United States to reverse this decision.
“The CCA notes that US Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack has repeatedly emphasized the need for any new origin labeling requirements to comply with US WTO obligations and that the wording of the bill itself does not make it clear how WTO compliance could be achieved “, Fawn Jackson, Director. politics and international affairs, said in a statement.
If passed, the American Beef Labeling Act would give US trade officials a year to develop a system that would comply with WTO regulations.