Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says a looming trade war with the United States next year over labelling rules is more than just a game of chicken.

Canada will head to the World Trade Organization in coming months to lay the groundwork for possible sanctions against the U-S over its country-of-origin meat-labelling rules.

Ritz says Canada's pledge to retaliate against a range of U-S products if the rules aren't scrapped or amended is no idle threat.

He says the confrontation could be avoided if U-S policy were based on fairness and science instead of politics.

The federal government will have other agricultural challenges to chew on in the new year.

Prairie farm groups want Ottawa to get tough with railways over delays in shipping last fall's bumper grain crop.

There have been calls for the Conservative government to amend legislation enacted just last June called the Fair Rail Freight Service Act.

Ritz says the transportation bottleneck is more complicated than the farm groups are suggesting.

He says the new legislation includes provisions for a review of its effectiveness in 2015, but that could be bumped up if necessary.