Sixteen R-CALF USA officers, directors and committee chairs today sent a strong five-page letter to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) calling NCBA’s public response to Canada’s Oct. 7, 2009, announcement that it would pursue a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the United States’ mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law “intolerable, irresponsible and deceptive, as well as a tremendous disservice to the hard-working men and women who comprise the U.S. live cattle industry.”

NCBA issued a public statement on the same date that Canada announced its WTO complaint, claiming that COOL likely has damaged what it calls “critically important trading relationships” between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. NCBA claims the U.S. supposedly benefits from Canadian and Mexican cattle imports because the U.S. exports value-added beef products to Canadian and Mexican consumers. “Canada and Mexico are our top two trading partners, together accounting for 59% of total U.S. beef, beef variety meat and processed beef product export revenues last year,” NCBA’s statement asserts.

R-CALF USA’s letter to NCBA CEO Forrest Roberts states in part:

“Your Oct. 7, 2009, ‘NCBA Statement on Canadian WTO Complaint Against U.S. COOL Law’ (NCBA announcement) in which you extol the combined, revenue-based benefits of U.S. cattle and beef trade with Canada and Mexico, fails to disclose the critical fact that trade (i.e., both imports and exports) with these two countries continues to generate a substantial revenue-based deficit for the U.S. – a deficit that has averaged more than $1.3 billion in each of the past five years and that has resulted in a cumulative five-year loss of more than $6.6 billion.”

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said NCBA’s announcement deceives cattle producers, the public and Congress because it omits the most important material fact necessary to evaluate the costs and benefits of trade: the net balance between imports and exports.

“The U.S. continues to have a horrendous trade deficit with these two combined countries because U.S. beef and cattle exports to Canada and Mexico are smothered by the amount of cattle and beef these countries send to the U.S.,” he said. “This dispute is not about a difference of opinion, but rather, it is about NCBA’s action of omitting and/or withholding material facts from the cattle industry.

“The persistent trade deficit with Canada and Mexico means that we pay Canada and Mexico well over a billion dollars each year more than they pay us for the privilege of granting them unlimited access to our domestic market,” Bullard explained. “This more than a billion-dollar-a-year drain on our industry is depressing demand for U.S. cattle and driving our domestic cattle prices down.

“Only if you were part of the Canadian cattle industry, or buying lower priced Canadian and Mexican cattle to sell in the United States’ higher market, or a multinational meatpacker operating in the U.S., Canada and/or Mexico could you make the claim that trade with Canada and Mexico is a net benefit,” he pointed out.

“There are winners and losers in trade, and the U.S. cattle industry is a long-term net loser when it comes to trade with Canada and Mexico,” Bullard continued. “We’re losing over $1 billion in domestic cattle sales each year because of the millions of cattle being sourced from foreign countries instead of from domestic producers. Just look at today’s overall cattle market in which we have historically low supplies, and our prices nevertheless are being forced downward because meatpackers are supplanting our domestic production with imported cattle and beef.”

Calling NCBA’s action “outrageous,” R-CALF USA included charts and data in its letter that it says “unequivocally prove that trade with Canada and Mexico in the products NCBA listed in its statement (live cattle, beef, beef variety meat and processed beef product) results in a substantial loss to the United States of more than $1 billion per year.”

“NCBA’s assertion that trade with Canada and Mexico is a net benefit to the U.S. cattle industry is absolutely false and irresponsible,” Bullard asserted. “For NCBA to attack COOL using such a deceptive and unsupported argument is shameful and downright deceptive.

“U.S. cattle producers deserve the facts – all the facts – and they don’t deserve to have a high-profile national organization use deceptive tactics to persuade them to attack the only tool available to U.S. cattle producers to divert demand away from imported beef and toward U.S. beef: mandatory COOL that distinguishes U.S. beef from imported beef,” he emphasized. “NCBA’s action is unacceptable and intolerable.”

The concluding statement in R-CALF USA’s letter to NCBA states: “This intolerable misrepresentation and deception must stop, and now is the time for you to explain to the U.S. cattle industry how it benefits from a $1 billion-plus annual trade deficit with Canada and Mexico. Once you provide this important explanation, then perhaps the debate regarding the merits of COOL can commence based on facts and opinion, not on deception and deceit.”