As far back as 2004, this columnist warned the industry what could lay ahead should the United States ever fully implement the mandatory country of origin labelling, or simply M-COOL. Someone, not this reporter had laid out for him the potential consequences, but others didn’t really think so, especially government at that time.
Fast forward to 2008.
One moment, Canadian pork producers were breathing a collective sigh of relief and the next, a sigh of heaviness as the uncertainty of M-COOL set in once again.
First, the former Bush administration released the final rule for M-COOL giving Canadian and American livestock producers some certainty and hope that maybe this would work out after all.
Then the headline shrieked, “COOL” Rule Suspended by the now new President Obama and his administration placing a hold on the Country of Origin labeling or “COOL” mandate of fresh food.
The word came out quickly that President Obama would be delaying all pending and last minute regulations of the Bush Administration, including the COOL rule that is a part of the 2008 Farm Bill.
“COOL” would have required all retailers who sell meat, fish, nuts, and produce to properly label where the item was produced or grown. However, the suspending of that rule means for the most part, a review that could well tighten up the rule keeping more livestock from entering the United States.
That is exactly what happened.
Processors started the labelling process in September and fines to start for unlabelled items starting the following April, 2009.
That suspension created even more uncertainty than before bringing into question the future of livestock moving into the United States.
“This may not be good news as a review could also mean a toughening of COOL rules may be coming,” said John McGregor, then farm production advisor for MAFRI in Steinbach, MB.  Of course the rule affects mostly the hog and cattle producers.
Boyd Penner of Southeast Marketing told of how the mood changed at a hog industry meeting in Minneapolis on the day president Obama suspended the rule.
“Beforehand very much optimism – the packers would take the Canadian hogs and things would be fine,” said Penner just after returning from the meeting on January 23. “When Obama made the announcement, everyone became worried again, panicking because some U.S. customers who had not bought for a long time had started buying Canadian hogsSetting the Stage for M-COOL Following the Latest WTO Rulingand now were sorry they had.”
The exporter of Canadian hogs working on behalf of many independent Canadian producers said even customers in Canada who were going to add more farrowing crates hoping to cash in on the Bush clarified rule, to accommodate the extra demand.
“Since the latest freeze, many of those Canadian customers have given up again because this just does not look good,” he said.
Penner had said earlier, the Canadian industry may well have to get used to the fact that of shipping into a Canadian market meaning no live hogs south, but processing everything in Canada and selling it as pork and pork products.
Since that infamous 2008 suspension and subsequent tightening up of the M-COOL rule, conservative estimates of losses to the Canadian hog and cattle industries, is $1 billion dollars.  •
— By Harry Siemens