OTTAWA, Ontario – Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz met with member of Congress, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and others in an effort to pressure the US government into ending the controversial mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) rule.

The meetings with government officials and industry stakeholders in the United States and Canada are meant to build upon Ritz's speech at the North American Meat Association Outlook Conference recently held in Chicago. Ritz dubbed COOL "a political solution to a problem that doesn't exist" and said the regulation hurts industries on both sides of the border.

"Our Government continues to stand up for Canadian livestock producers by opposing mandatory Country of Origin Labelling," Ritz said. "Our message today was clear: the US has a timely opportunity to do what's best for both our countries and fix COOL in the current Farm Bill."

A recent example of the negative consequences of COOL was Tyson Foods' decision to stop buying cattle directly from Canadian producers. The Springdale, Ark.-based company cited significantly high costs associated with COOL compliance as the reason for the shift.

The World Trade Organization established a compliance panel to review COOL and determine whether the rule complies with US obligations under the WTO. Canada has threatened retaliatory tariffs should the compliance panel rule in its favor. Meanwhile, meat industry groups in the US, Canada and Mexico are fighting COOL in US federal court. The groups are seeking a preliminary injunction against implementation of the law.