USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation that the department has explored all options to bring the controversial country of origin labeling rule into compliance with the World Trade Organization standards by May 1, but has found no ways to fix it. The Des Moines Register reports that Congress has directed the USDA to make changes to the rule after several WTO hearings have gone against the United States and in favor of Canada and Mexico.
Even after changes were made to the original rule, the WTO determined the latest COOL rule provided less favorable treatment to livestock from Canada and Mexico. The United States has appealed the decision.
"If we lose, the only recourse is for Congress to act, and if they don't act that there will be retaliation by Mexico and Canada," Vilsack said. "I'm now in a rock and a hard spot with Congress telling me to do one thing and the WTO telling me I can't do what the Congress told me to do. I love congress. We told them all along (about) this dilemma."
Vilsack said that he told Congress they had two options, either repeal the section of the labeling law relating to livestock or allow the USDA to provide a more generic label, such as "Made in North America."