A breakthrough, seeing the light, or simply sitting down and looking at why the WTO sent the Americans packing on their ill-conceived M-COOL, but U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told farm broadcasters in Kansas City recently regulations won’t fix M-COOL as it now stands.
In a question and answer period recorded and posted by Agwired.com Vilsack opened up with this statement after he’d charged his team to review the WTO ruling.
“We’ve done a 360-degree look and I can tell you that we do not think there’s a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law, which I’ve sworn to uphold, and to satisfy the WTO,” Vilsack said.
Secretary Vilsack says following the WTO ruling becoming public, his USDA team outlined the options that would exist between what the WTO says is unacceptable, and what the U.S. congress is directing them to do.
“We have attempted on two occasions to walk that very difficult path. We’ve been true to the law, but WTO on two occasions has indicated that while we can label, we can’t do it in such a way that requires desegregation of livestock which in turn increases the burden on Canadian and Mexican livestock which in turn WTO has found to be unacceptable,” explains the secretary of agriculture.
He says one of two things needs to happen, either the U.S.’s Canadian and Mexican friends have to tell the U.S. more clearly and more specifically what if any variation will work for them.
“Or congress has to give different directions that will allow us to comport with the WTO ruling to prevent whatever potential retaliation will occur now,” said Vilsack.
While saying the U.S. still has the appeal rights, he hasn’t asked his team to look at how strong the appeal might be.
“I’ve asked them if there is a way through regulatory fix that will make this all go away,” Vilsack said. “They’ve come back and said we don’t think we can do that with the law as it exists and the WTO ruling as it exists.”
“Maybe, just maybe, there is one Obama cabinet member who has some respect for the rule of law,” says Steve Dittmer, of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation in the United States.
The text of the 2002 Farm Bill reads ‘‘(1) Requirement — Except as provided in subsection (b), a retailer of a covered commodity shall inform consumers, at the final point of sale of the covered commodity
Dittmer says the subsection (b) referred to is the exemption for food service establishments.
“I think he reads the text of the law, compares it to the WTO rulings and concludes there is nothing he can do under the statute text,” he said. “That was our opinion from the very beginning but the USDA did not agree and have spent all this time trying to do the impossible.”
Meanwhile, that futile effort has cost the meat production chain in the U.S., Canada and Mexico hundreds of millions of dollars and some folks their companies and their jobs, adds Dittmer.  •
— By Harry Siemens