South Dakota Stockgrowers maintain support for country-of-origin labeling after WTO ruling

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Congress should not hastily act on repealing country-of-origin meat labeling in the wake of a World Trade Organization ruling against the labels, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association President Bob Fortune said.

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The WTO ruled Monday against U.S. labels on certain cuts of red meat that say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered, saying the labels put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage.

Some groups including the North Dakota Stockmen's Association are now calling for Congress to repeal the law, saying they fear retaliation from Mexico and Canada in the form of tariffs.

Fortune said those countries would have to prove damages before imposing retaliatory tariffs, and Congress shouldn't get ahead of that process.

"Tariffs will only take effect if the arbitration process fails to reach any resolution, and we feel that there is a real opportunity for the United States to find a way for Canada and Mexico (to) join us in providing information to all our consumers about the source of their food," Fortune said in a statement Tuesday.

The National Farmers Union, which has urged the Obama administration to negotiate with Mexico and Canada on a solution, said for Congress to repeal the labeling law would be "premature and reactionary."

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"The best thing Congress could do is to step aside while the WTO process continues," said NFU President Roger Johnson, a North Dakota farmer and former state agriculture commissioner.

Sixty Farmers Union members from 27 states are in Washington, D.C., this week, urging Congress to hold off on repealing country-of-origin labeling.

"We need thoughtful leadership, not reactionary legislation," Johnson said.