The possibility that Canadian cattle and beef will face market discrimination if the U.S. government moves ahead with a new labeling rule is one of the main concerns representatives from the Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) are raising while meeting with American counterparts at the 2024 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Orlando, Florida.
After going through a public comment period last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final rule on voluntary Product of the USA labeling is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget. Under the proposed changes, only meat, poultry, and egg products from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the U.S. would be allowed to carry a “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label.
Both Canada and Mexico raised concerns about the proposed labeling rule disrupting the integrated North American cattle market during the annual tri-lateral meeting on Tuesday, says CCA president and New Brunswick cattle producer Nathan Phinney.
“We do not want to have any regulations in place that potentially could jeopardize that,” he explains, sitting down with RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney following the meeting. “We’re at a point where there’ve been droughts in the U.S. and in Canada, and we all know that our critical mass is down. We need to be able to move those cattle freely where feed is available. We need to be able to move those cattle back to where processing is available to keep our critical infrastructure rolling.”
The Canadian cattle industry will be closely watching for any signs of segregation or injury to the market for Canadian cattle if the labeling rule is implemented, noting Canada could potentially refer to the earlier World Trade Organization ruling against the U.S.’ mandatory country-of-origin labeling. “Even though it’s a voluntary version of COOL, the unintended consequences that may come out of this are something that could become reality and we’ll have to address,” says Phinney.
At this point, it’s not clear how U.S. processing plants will navigate the rule — whether they will choose to follow the label and stop purchasing animals that don’t meet the new criteria.
“Until this gets in place, we won’t know how processors will react, we don’t know how consumers will react. We don’t know how much this will gain traction or what it’ll overall look like. Maybe there’ll be no uptake, but if there is uptake and we see that, that’s the concerning part,” he says. “That’s why we’re down here working as hard as we are, trying to make sure that we limit any of those those risks.”
Canada’s agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay, also raised concerns about the labeling rule, as well as California’s Proposition 12, disrupting supply chains while meeting with U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, DC in late January.
Find more coverage of the 2024 NCBA Cattle Convention from Orlando here.