A Saskatchewan cattle producer says he’s holding off his celebrations until the U.S. Senate finally and officially repeals Country-of-Origin Labelling (COOL) in the American meat industry.
Canadian beef and pork producers have lost an estimated $1 billion a year under the rules, which forced American meat packers to separate Canadian cattle from American before slaughter. The extra cost got passed on to Canada’s producers in the form of lower prices for their animals.
Les Johnson with Nisku Farms said there have been countless delays in the now-seven-year-old trade dispute, as the Americans lost challenges at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Even the current Senate vote was supposed to happen earlier this week.
“We thought it was going to be yesterday, or the day before, it could have been the 1st of December – that’s been the American way, to stretch this as long as they can,” he said.
The senate action comes as Canada was preparing to impose $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs on American goods — based on a list that targeted products from states where officials were supporting COOL.
Assuming all goes as expected, Johnson said he hopes repeal will help spur more young people to get into the cattle business.
“You know, if you start taking another 25 cents a pound and putting it in the producer’s pocket, you would think that would stimulate more uptake of our industry in this country,” he said, noting that rising land prices still present a barrier.
Johnson said COOL affected more than just producer’s bottom lines, as lengthy court proceedings and trade hearings diverted resources into fighting for repeal.
“We could have taken all that money and put it into research. That was money just absolutely thrown away to lawyers and courts that we could have (used to) develop better products and more efficient products,” he said.
Johnson said that once the COOL issue is out of the way, he hopes to see the focus shift from trade irritants to innovation that will help the industry curb its reliance on the American market.
“The key to us in Canada as producers, is to create a product that reaches a standard (the Americans) can’t attain and world markets will appreciate that,” he said.