In November, John Barlow, MP for Foothills, was re-named to the position as the Conservatives’ shadow minister for agriculture.

Among Barlow’s current priorities is the attention — or lack thereof — that country-of-origin labelling (COOL) is currently getting in Ottawa. As the conversations grow in strength with a bipartisan bill in the U.S. senate surrounding COOL, the need for concern rises, says Barlow.

“What was the most disconcerting was when I asked the foreign affairs minister [Melanie Joly] if she had had these discussions, she didn’t even know what COOL was. So when an issue like this is front of mind, but the person at the front line doesn’t even know what the issue is, or doesn’t even know what that stands for, that’s a problem,” he explains at Prairie Cereals Summit, in Banff, Alta.

Right now what the government needs to be doing, says Barlow, is pushing back as aggressively as they can, especially after some of the issues seen in the past with commodities such as softwood lumber, electric vehicles, energy, dairy, and most recently, P.E.I. potatoes.

“When we were in government we took this to the WTO on multiple occasions. Finally the WTO said that COOL does violate international trade law. So that decision is already there. So our government needs to be saying, you know what, this is a no go,” Barlow emphasizes. “We also, as a part of that decision, have a $1 billion retaliation, so we say hey, if you are going to bring back COOL, we’re going to slap you with a $1 billion tariff retaliation, and be ready for that. Unfortunately we just haven’t seen that yet.”

Somehow, there needs to be a repair of the relationship between Ottawa and Washington, D.C., says Barlow. Likely, that means putting feet on the ground and fixing the damage. Part of the problem as well, he thinks, is that it’s a western Canadian focused problem for the most part, so it’s not necessarily top-of-mind out east.

“This will hurt Alberta and Saskatchewan ranchers. But the other part of that, is it will be just as detrimental to American producers,” he explains. “It will be devastating to western Canadian livestock, and unfortunately, that’s not where Liberal votes are, so that’s why I think it’s not a top priority for them.”

Check out the full conversation between Barlow and RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis, below:

Related:

John Barlow back in the agriculture saddle

American mandatory country-of-origin labelling rides again

Fungus finding stops seed, fresh potato movement from PEI to U.S.

Please register to read and comment.