The World Trade Organization’s final ruling June 29 sided with Canada and Mexico’s position against the U.S. country of origin labeling rules, potentially hurting U.S. cattle producers.

The WTO determined the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) rules gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from Canada and Mexico. The ruling will allow the U.S. to require meats to use country-of-origin labels, but the program must be altered to ensure there’s not a technical barrier to trade. The countries must agree on a timeline for the U.S. to comply with the ruling, but implementation could take up to 15 months.

COOL was mandatory beginning in March 2009, enabling consumers to differentiate between U.S. and foreign products.

In an AgriTalk interview, NCBA’s Collin Woodall said Friday’s ruling is similar to the ruling released in November which said the labeling provision violated WTO rules on technical barriers to trade. Woodall believes Mexico and Canada could retaliate against the U.S. by taking retaliatory action, imposing tariffs on U.S. beef and other products.

“The biggest concern we have is this is now going to put our trade relationship with Canada and Mexico in serious jeopardy and they are our number one and number two export market for U.S. beef,” Woodall said.

Tariffs and other trade restrictions from the United States’ primary markets will affect the bottom line of domestic cattle producers.

According to the COOL rules for beef or pork to be listed as U.S. origin, it must come from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. Products from animals raised in foreign countries and slaughtered in the U.S. were labeled as a product of mixed origin.

The next step is to get Congress to change the law. A statement released by the NCBA, Vice President Bob McCan said the organization will work with this administration and Congress to find a permanent solution to this issue in order to bring the United States back into compliance.

Click here to listen to the AgriTalk interview with Collin Woodall.