Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk issued a joint statement Wednesday on a Canadian request to create a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel to settle their dispute over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements. Canada is challenging the legitimacy of COOL requirements for certain agricultural products, which are mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill.

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“The US country-of-origin labeling requirements are so onerous that they affect the ability of our cattle and hog exporters to compete fairly in the US market,” said Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell.

Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Kirk expressed regret that Canada had lingering concerns over the labeling requirements after a series of formal consultations over the issue.

“We believe that our implementation of COOL provides information to consumers in a manner consistent with our World Trade Organization commitments,” said Vilsack and Kirk in a joint statement.

“Countries have agreed since long before the existence of the WTO that country of origin labeling is a legitimate policy. It is common for other countries to require that gods be labeled as to their origin,” said the statement. “We hope to continue to work with Canada to resolve this issue amicably.” 

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 mandates COOL at the retail level for beef, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, perishable agricultural commodities, and certain nuts.

Canada and the U.S. are each other’s number one trading partners, they exchanged around $35 billion in agricultural trade in 2008.