No ‘regulatory fix’ for COOL: Vilsack

No ‘regulatory fix’ for COOL: Vilsack

By Tom Johnston on 11/19/2014

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the National Association of Farm Broadcasters that USDA doesn’t see a regulatory “fix” to U.S. country-of-origin labeling law.

In a weekend press conference at the NAFB’s convention in Kansas City, the Secretary said, in response to a question, “We have looked at this from every different angle. I can tell you we do not think there’s a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law … and to satisfy the WTO.”

WTO ruled recently that Washington can provide origin information on meat labels but cannot do so in a manner that discriminates against livestock from Canada and Mexico. In the wake of that ruling, Vilsack said, “I asked our team at USDA to outline the options that would exist between what the WTO says is unacceptable and what Congress is instructing us to do. We have tried twice to walk that difficult path."

Vilsack said on the broadcast he sees only a couple ways to solve the problem. Either Canada and Mexico can more clearly direct what if any variation would work for them, or Congress will have to provide “different directions” that would allow the agency to satisfy WTO obligations and prevent trade retaliations.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office is considering an appeal of the WTO ruling, Vilsack said.

"I have not asked my team how strong the appeal might be," he added.

A recording of the entire press conference is posted on the website.