October 21, 2014

WTO Rules Against U.S. Country of Origin Labeling

The World Trade Organization has again ruled against Country of Origin Labeling. The WTO compliance panel decided the rule was less favorable to meat imports from Canada and Mexico and more favorable to domestically produced meats. The ruling was announced Monday. The panel concluded the amended COOL measure “increases the original COOL measure’s detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported livestock in the US market,” according to the reports released by the WTO. The panel pointed to the incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock and a higher recordkeeping burden contributed to the ruling. The United States can appeal the ruling.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told Canada Today he expected the U.S. to appeal. A U.S. Trade office spokesperson told the Hagstrom report  “we are considering all options, including appealing the panels’ reports.” Earlier this year, Canadian agriculture officials said retaliations are likely if the rule is implemented. Ritz said Canada calls upon the U.S. to enact legislative change to eliminate COOL’s discriminatory treatment against Canadian hogs and cattle.”

Response to Ruling

As groups respond to the recent ruling by the World Trade Organization against Country of Origin Labeling, two messages are clear. Groups opposed to the measure are calling on congress to help stop potential tariffs or bring the rule to compliance. Groups in favor of the measure vow to continue fighting for the measure, noting the WTO simply needs the rule to be in compliance with world trade rules. National Catlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan stated the announcement “brings us all one step closer to facing retaliatory tariffs from two of our largest trading partners.” Further, he said there is no regulatory fix to bring COOL into compliance.”  

The National Pork Producers Council President Howard Hill said “Congress and the White House need to address this now.” American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said the decision “ only solidifies what we in the industry already knew to be true: that mandatory country of origin labeling in its current state is an unworkable burden on soybean farmers’ largest customers—the animal agriculture industry.”

The United States Cattlemen’s Association reiterated strong support for the rule. USCA President Danni Beer said “The WTO has never said we cannot require country-of-origin labeling” but rather it needs to be sufficient.” He said this action by the WTO provided “no basis for false alarms about repealing the COOL statute itself.  The National Farmers Union called the ruling positive that the problem is not the rule, but rather how it is to be implemented.

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U.S. Ag Sec Vilsack Speaks On New Price Support Programs

While Producers around the Midwest have been preoccupied with harvest, officials at USDA have been busy wrapping up the final measures to implement one of the cornerstones of the 2014 farm bill. One of the major changes this time around will that previous price support programs will go away and producers will now have to choose between ARC, the Agricultural Risk Coverage option or PLC, the Price Loss Coverage program:

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That’s US Ag secretary Tom Vilsack. Another change this time around: Landowners will be able to update their base yields and reallocate base acres:

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That’s right, he said owners. In a major change from previous rules, it will be the land owner, not the operator, who must authorize the changes to base acres and yields Those decisions will impact which program will be most beneficial to the operator and also increase the importance of landowner/renter discussions.

In order to help with these important decisions, USDA has authorized millions in funding for FSA and Land Grant Universities to help build decision maker tools.

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Four Billion Acres of Biotech Crops Have Been Harvested Across The World

As of last week, farmers across the world have now harvested four billion acres of biotech crops since commercialization of the technology in 1996. Illinois Farmer Dan Kelley serves on the board of Truth About Trade and Technology, a non-profit group providing information about trade and technology issues affecting the world

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Kelley says farmers have seen dramatic improvements to the crops they grow

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But Kelley says it’s not just farmers that stand to benefit from biotechnology in agriculture

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New varieties are also in development that could add nutrients to crops grown in developing areas, addressing nutritional deficiencies in those populations. Kelley says while some consumers are still wary of the relatively new technology, biotech crops undergo a great deal of research and scrutiny. Four billion harvested acres later, Kelley says they are still proven safe for his family and yours.

 

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