CCA repo rts
By Martin Unrau
Taking COOL to Court
rime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet shuffle contained a few surprises but thankfully not too many for the cattle industry. By keeping Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast at the helm in their respective posts, the cattle industry is assured that important files like U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) and a CanadaEU comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA), don’t miss a beat. Both of these files are at critical junctures after considerable effort from government and industry. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) looks forward to a continued working relationship with ministers Ritz and Fast on these and other issues of importance to Canada’s beef cattle producers. The CCA looks forward to working with two new ministers, Rona Ambrose as minister of health and Leona Aglukkaq as minister of the environment. With Minister Ambrose the CCA will continue its work to achieve the approval of beef irradiation technology to enhance food safety for consumers and to support Health Canada’s work in evaluating approvals of new veterinary medications. We look forward to a continued collaboration on the environment file with Minister Aglukkaq on issues including the Species at Risk Act and a National Conservation Plan. Earlier in July, the CCA joined a coalition of meat and livestock organizations in the U.S. and Canada in filing a lawsuit to block the implementation of the recently amended U.S. COOL regulation. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint is made on the grounds that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) May 23, 2013 COOL amendment violates the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Agriculture Marketing Act, and is arbitrary and capricious. Other plaintiffs include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, and Southwest Meat Association. One question that I encountered a fair bit following the announcement is why the CCA is participating in what is essentially a U.S. Constitutional challenge. The CCA was invited to participate in the coalition lawsuit and did so because the desired outcome — blocking the implementation of COOL — is a shared objective. Participation in the lawsuit is one piece of a multi-pronged strategy the CCA has in play to end COOL discrimination against imported cattle, and that is to amend the COOL legislation to allow either a single mandatory label for all meat produced in the U.S. or to allow for voluntary labelling.
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The legal action is warranted because the increase in discrimination against imported cattle inherent in USDA’s May 23 amendments to the COOL rule will irreparably injure Canada’s livestock producers and their U.S. customers. The USDA’s chosen path of unfair trade discrimination also undermines the job security of American workers and harms the U.S. meat-processing industry, which will directly impact the productivity of Canada’s cattle industry. The lawsuit follows a move earlier in June by the Government of Canada to release a list of U.S. commodities that could be targeted for retaliation in relation to the COOL dispute. The Government of Canada has said it could seek retaliatory compensation of approximately $1.1 billion following the completion of ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) proceedings, which will move forward independently of this U.S.-based litigation. The CCA is pleased to see operations returning to normal at Cargill’s High River facility. The plant processes about 40 per cent of western Canadian capacity and employs about 2,000 people. The facility was forced to reduce and then cease processing beef for a period due to a lack of fresh water supply following the floods in southern Alberta that devastated High River. The CCA was in regular contact with Cargill throughout the situation and worked in support of their activities to normalize their operations as quickly as possible. Cargill’s current fresh water supply is sufficient to harvest cattle and process beef for the time being. The amount of available fresh water supply will continue to drive Cargill’s operational decisions moving forward. Later in July, CCA officials met with Cargill senior leadership in Wichita, Kansas, and had good discussions on international trade priorities, sustainability and the future outlook of the industry. The CCA supported the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association effort to have Vancouver City Council revisit its decision to become Canada’s first city to adopt the anti-animal agriculture campaign, Meatless Monday. The Meatless Monday campaign contains falsehoods that eating meat damages the environment and negatively affects health. The so-called studies the campaign relies on to support its premise have been refuted by numerous experts. We’ll keep you posted on any updates regarding our request. I also participated in the first meeting of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). Spearheaded by the CCA and modelled after the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, of which CCA is a member, the CRSB aims to be a national, multi-stakeholder initiative developed to advance existing and new sustainability efforts within the industry. c
Martin Unrau is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association