Vilsack talks COOL, beef checkoff

COOL could be out in weeks, maybe days and Vilsack said new checkoff could be started by end of 2015.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that a final World Trade Organization ruling on the United States’ mandatory country-of-origin labeling rule could be made public relatively soon within a matter of “weeks, if not days.”

Leaked reports previously shared that the ruling would go against the U.S., which if not abided by would allow Canada and Mexico approval to impose sanctions against the United States.

Vilsack said, “My job as secretary is to comply with the Congressional directive so long as it remains the directive of Congress and to assure compliance with whatever decisions may emanate from the WTO.”

He said the United States is committed to communicate with Mexicans and Canadians to find a way forward, he said, as he was seated next to his Mexican counterpart Minister of Agriculture Enrique Martinez y Martinez at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogues Oct. 16.  

Second checkoff proceeds

Vilsack also stood by his decision to move forward with creating the second beef checkoff. Beef industry groups have been meeting for three years and have been unable to reach a consensus on how to obtain additional money desired for marketing and research.

The secretary said by using that right and power under the 1996 General Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act he can encourage more money to come into the system.

“Absent my action we’re in a stalemate,” he said.

Wednesday 45 state cattlemens’ associations representing more than 170,000 cattle breeders, producers and feeders sent a letter to Vilsack, urging him not to issue an Order for a supplemental beef checkoff.

Vilsack said it will take some time for the new checkoff to get set up but he expects to first file in the Federal Register a notice creating an invitation for stakeholders to provide information on how the checkoff should be structured or developed. “Then we can take that information, analyze it and create a second checkoff,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said once the checkoff creation goes through the regulatory process of setting it up, he anticipates sometime in the later part of 2015, or at the latest early 2016, to be in a position to begin operating the new checkoff.

He also left the door open for changes to the current checkoff program if news ideas come forward that can be agreed upon.

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