The National Farmers Union is speaking out against recent reports that the World Trade Organization has made a firm decision on the Country-of-Origin Labeling dispute.
Roger Johnson, president of the NFU, said unsourced and unsubstantiated rumors "almost always tell a small, biased, one-sided part of the story. Speculation, at this point, is not only meaningless, but also irresponsible."
The statement by Johnson came after the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the WTO has gain ruled that the United States' Country of Origin labeling rule is non-compliant with the trade group's standards. However, an official report detailing the findings will not be made public until September or October.
Canada and Mexico in fact do oppose a new U.S. rule that requires more information on labels about the origins of beef, pork and other meats, which went into effect in November. They took their case to the WTO, saying the rule hurts their competitiveness.
"We can't and won't comment on a WTO report that we have not yet seen and is not yet public, nor should anyone else," Johnson said. "There is often a tendency for these things to leak out; and they are sometimes accurate and sometimes not accurate. We've been hearing these stories from some of our good friends in Canada for a long time, and the U.S. has always said it will comply with WTO rules. In fact, the rules around which these rumors are now based were written precisely to conform with the most recent WTO rulings,so this will surely figure into the final decision."
Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal, meat industry groups have called out the USDA, saying the COOL rule provides consumers with more information and should be retained while others are concerned that the rule causes a rift in international trade and imposes more costs on packers.A separate lawsuit in that matter is ongoing. The rule also saw its share of discussion in the Farm Bill negotiations at the start of the year. Some legislators attempted to ensure it could not be enforced with