US – The Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (MCOOL) dispute has contributed to meat plant closure and almost halved Canadian live cattle exports to the US, say industry leaders.
The cost of segregating cattle to comply with MCOOL regulations is pressuring US meat plants, while undermining confidence in food labelling legislation further afield.
John Masswohl, director of government and relations at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, told TheCattleSite that Canadian cattle exports to the US have halved since the legislation was introduced.
Canada has seen its live cattle exports to the US drop from a consistent 1-1.2 million head a year to nearer 600,000.
Mr Masswohl noticed this change immediately after the US rule amendment on MCOOL which changed the rule to ‘point of product labelling’.
“This amendment provides more information and also increases the burden of gathering the information,” said Mr Masswohl. “But, it completely ignored the discrimination of livestock.”
For this reason, he said it is ‘absolutely absurd’ for the US to think MCOOL is compliant with the WTO rulings.
Describing the recently passed Farm Bill, Mr Masswohl said: “We had hoped that Congress would use the Farm Bill to say the MCOOL policy was bad for America, regardless of trade policy and implications with the WTO.”
While at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention in Nashville, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Scott George warned that MCOOL tightens cattle supplies.
He attributed this to the closure of Cargill’s Plainview plant last year.
Canadian data shows over 60 per cent of Canadian cattle shipped into America were fed and ready for immediate slaughter before MCOOL.
Mr George also warned of the ‘scary ripple effect’ that plant closure can have on surrounding cattle infrastructures and economies.
Mr George said: “Not long after Plainview closed, a 94,000 feedlot operation announced closure because they couldn’t haul animals further,” said Mr George. “The cost to segregate animals is so problematic.”
Mr George expressed concern about the impact plant closure had to surrounding infrastructure and that history could repeat itself at a Tyson plant in Pasco, Washington.
“That plant operates only four days a week because it has refused to accept any Canadian cattle raised over the border and fed in the local yards.”
Mr George concluded that MCOOL was the biggest issue besetting the cattle industry in 2014.
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