Mandatory country-of-origin labelling on the way

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CALGARY, Alta. — Canadian meat producers and livestock haulers dodged a bullet when the U.S. imposed voluntary country of origin labelling, but it appears mandatory labelling is only two years away.

The U.S. farm bill contains a controversial country of origin labelling procedure that requires all meat to be labeled that hasn’t been born, raised and processed in the U.S. The fear is that supermarkets, slaughterhouses and retailers will shun meat from other countries such as Canada, as the administrative burden of carrying imported meat would be too costly and time-consuming to be bothered with.

When the U.S. Farm Bill was announced in Washington recently, voluntary country of origin labelling was announced. However, it has since come to light that mandatory labelling will be in effect in two years. That’s not what Canadian farmers and livestock haulers want to hear.

"This is trade protectionism," blasts Larry Campbell of the Canadian Meat Council to local media. "If they bring this in, we will be looking closely at trade agreements to see how it can be challenged."

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) says it will be examining NAFTA and World Trade Organization rules to determine the legality of the move.

"We’re extremely disappointed," says CCA representative, Neil Jahnke. "They did not heed the advice of their own packer, retail and producer sectors. This has been proven not to work."

In the months leading up to the release of the controversial farm bill, U.S. retailers and processing plants were quick to discourage the proposed country-of-origin labelling plan.

"We have concerns that a mandatory country-of-origin labelling program may have negative trade implications and place regulatory burdens not only on retailers and packers, but on cattle producers themselves," says U.S.-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

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