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U.S. election may fix COOL

It’s been a busy month for cattlemen generally. The good fall weather has allowed producers including myself to wean calves and get them settled for winter or marketed at record high prices. I’m hearing the demand and competition for feeders has been very strong. That is great for producers who market the majority of their cattle on one day of the year. I believe we will start to see heifer retention this fall, as some producers are telling me their steer calves are bringing as much as the whole calf-crop last year.

I was pleased to join Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Gerry Ritz in Saskatoon on October 20 for the public announcement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Compliance Panel decision on U.S. mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) welcomes the panel report as it unequivocally supports Canada’s position that the U.S. amendments to the COOL regulation continue the discrimination against live imports of cattle and hogs into the U.S. marketplace. Indeed, in finding that “… the amended COOL measure has increased the original COOL measure’s detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported livestock.” The panel affirms the CCA’s position that the revised regulation is worse than the original. This is an important and decisive victory for Canada. As I write this, the U.S. had yet to indicate what its next steps might be but the political pressure is building in the U.S. to fix COOL and avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico.

The results of U.S. mid-term elections may also factor positively in achieving a favourable legislative resolution of COOL. The Republican party now has majority control of the U.S. Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. The CCA has had good support in the House for fixing COOL and that remains solid. The reason for CCA’s optimism is that Republican Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas will almost assuredly become chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Kansas is a state that has been acutely hurt by COOL and Kansas producers want it fixed in a manner consistent with what the CCA is advocating, so it’s anticipated that fixing COOL may well be a priority for Senator Roberts. But even with this change in the committee’s leadership, there is much advocacy work that CCA will need to do in Washington, D.C.

The CCA wants the U.S. Congress to immediately repeal the red meat requirements of the COOL legislation or amend the statute to mandate a single label for meat processed in the U.S., thus eliminating the need for U.S. cattle buyers to segregate imported from U.S.-born livestock. Until COOL comes into compliance with the WTO, the CCA will continue to insist that the Government of Canada prepare to impose prohibitively high tariffs on key U.S. exports to Canada, including beef.

The impact of COOL on the combined Canadian cattle and hog sectors was estimated in 2012 to be approximately $1.1 billion per year; however, the impact has increased since the USDA amended the regulation in 2013.

I was pleased to attend CCA’s town hall meeting in Dauphin, Man. Town halls are a great opportunity to hear from producers about issues and also provide them with updates on the work the CCA does on their behalf. I returned to Manitoba a week later for a speaking engagement in Brandon, as the keynote speaker at the Taste of Beef luncheon, the kickoff event to Manitoba Livestock Expo. My topic was the impact of agriculture and, specifically, beef on the Canadian economy.

The drive through rural Manitoba to both events served as added inspiration for my speech. It is very clear agriculture is definitely No. 1 in this part of the country. If there was ever a region of Canada whose economy is nearly 100 per cent dependent on agriculture and the related spinoff, this is it.

It was also a good opportunity to meet producers from the area attending the expo. One concern raised is the current rules for export of cull cows to the U.S. The CCA will be working to propose some changes to the age verification requirements.

In Alberta I attended three fall meetings of the Alberta Beef Producer (ABP) and heard many positive comments about the CCA’s efforts to work with the Government of Canada on market access in many markets. There is recognition from producers that the strong global demand for beef is putting dollars in their pockets. ABP is undergoing a plan review this year and there have been resolutions related to the need for an increase in checkoff to maintain the level of industry promotion and advocacy.

CCA manager of federal provincial relations Ryder Lee and I travelled to Edmonton to appear via video conference before the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to discuss Bill C-18. This modernization bill intends to improve several acts relating to agriculture. It will also update the Advance Payments Program and improve it for cattle producers.

Labour was also on the agenda. CCA attended the Agriculture Labour Summit in Red Deer hosted by the Agriculture Industry Labour Council of Alberta. The labour challenges facing the industry will remain a focus of the CCA going forward.

About the author

Contributor

Dave Solverson is a past president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. With his brother Ken and daughter Joanne they 
operate Woodwind Ranch, near Camrose, Alta. 
He can be reached at 780-679-9625 
or [email protected]

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