Billings, Mont.R-CALF USA has provided the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) with information to show that the American Meat Institute's (AMI's) claim that the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law discourages U.S. meatpackers from purchasing foreign cattle is unsupported by actual market information. AMI made this unsupported claim in comments it submitted to USTR on Jan. 8, 2010.
Importantly, data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), however, show that the 5,157 head of Canadian cattle purchased by U.S. meatpackers during the week of January 4-10, 2010, were purchased at prices much closer in relation to domestic cattle prices than were the prices paid for the Canadian cattle purchased two years ago during the same period (January 7-13, 2008), which was prior to the implementation of COOL.
"We provided USTR with a chart that shows in January 2008, prior to COOL, the U.S. meatpackers were discounting Canadian cattle purchased under forward contracts on a dressed basis $13.17 per cwt below the price they were paying for comparable domestic cattle," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "But today, after the implementation of COOL, these same Canadian cattle are now being priced much closer to domestic cattle, with only a $7.84 per cwt difference in prices.
"These facts show that contrary to AMI's claim, U.S. meatpackers today are assigning a higher value to foreign cattle relative to domestic cattle after the implementation of COOL than they assigned to these same cattle before COOL went into effect," he continued. "These facts also further demonstrate that Canada's and Mexico's complaints against our COOL law filed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are baseless, just as we have explained in our formal comments to USTR."
Bullard said R-CALFUSA is not surprised by AMI's recent attack on COOL.
"AMI has been fighting for nearly a decade against the public's right to know where their food is produced, but what AMI really is fighting over is control over the cattle and beef markets," Bullard pointed out. "Prior to COOL, meatpackers could source cattle anywhere they could obtain them cheaper.
"Today, however, even though USDA has not yet implemented COOL as Congress intended, it still gives the consumer more power to decide from what country they want their food produced, and it is this loss of market control that motivates AMI to side with foreign governments in a direct attack against our sovereign right to have a domestic food labeling law," he emphasized.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALFUSA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALFUSA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALFUSA has dozens of affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.