March 6, 2009

Canada pork group to voice concerns over US label law

The Canadian pork industry on Thursday (March 5) asked the federal government not to delay in expressing the industry's concerns regarding US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's call for additional, voluntary meat labelling practices.


Canadian Pork Council Chairman Jurgen Preugschas and Executive Director Martin Rice appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food Thursday as witnesses in the committee's study on the "Situation of the Red Meat Sector."


While the original issues that sparked the crisis in the Canadian hog industry -- rapidly rising exchange rates and record feed prices -- have moderated, new problems have taken their place, Preugschas said, according to a press release from the council.


Mandatory country-of-origin labelling practices in the US and limited access to credit due to the economic crisis now threaten the livelihood of Canadian producers.


On Feb. 20, Vilsack said the US Department of Agriculture would implement the country-of-origin labelling rules that were penned by the Bush administration, but ask meat producers to go above and beyond the law by complying with "additional voluntary labelling practices."


"In order to provide consumers with sufficient information about the origin of products, processors should voluntarily include information about what production step occurred in each country when multiple countries appear on the label," Vilsack instructed meat producers.


The US labelling law is scheduled to take effect on March 16.


"The Canadian government must communicate our concerns regarding the voluntary labelling regime to the White House as soon as possible, before US processors are forced to make business decisions which will have market closing effects on Canadian hog and pork exports," said Rice.


Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said following Vilsack's Feb. 20 announcement that the additions to the labelling law are "causing uncertainty and concern."


Preugschas noted during his appearance that the number of Canadian farms reporting hogs has fallen 28 percent since January 2006, while Canadian hog inventories since that same time have fallen by 18 percent.

Video >

Follow Us