Senator John Thune’s (R-South Dakota) bill to require the U.S. Trade Representative to reinstate a World Trade Organization-friendly version of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef saw a big push early on, but mum has been the word lately.
The bill’s nine cosponsors, Tester (D-Montana), Rounds (R-South Dakota), Booker (D-New Jersey), Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Lujan (D-New Mexico), Lummis (R-Wyoming), Heinrich, (D-New Mexico), Barrasso (R-Wyoming), and Gillibrand (D-New York) seem to represesent either ultra urban or ultra rural areas.
In March 2022, a bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House (H.R.7291) by Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX) and Ro Khanna (D-CA). Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) has since cosponsored the House measure.
R-CALF USA has been on a campaign to gain support for the bill.
They say a new poll shows consumer support for beef labeling.
“Too many members of Congress talk favorably about reinstating mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, but they have not yet joined the legislation as cosponsors,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Our new poll makes it clear that an overwhelming number of American voters want Congress to enact MCOOL for beef, and they demonstrated this with their specific support for the American Beef Labeling Act.
“We hope lawmakers will carefully review this poll and quickly join this legislation as cosponsors to ensure its swift enactment.”
According to Bullard, though many consumers and cattle producers have been contacting their congressional members urging support of the American Beef Labeling Act, in light of these powerful poll results, R-CALF USA is now urging them to go tohttp://www.labelourbeef.com to use the online form to email more requests for swift congressional action. Constituents can also call the Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to ask for their congressional members by name.
Key Findings (poll of registered voters, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Coalition for a Prosperous America)
- 86% of American voters support the American Beef Labeling Act that reinstates mandatory country of origin labeling for beef.
- 90% of voters are concerned that foreign importers of beef can legally put a ‘Product of U.S.A.’ sticker on a package containing beef that was born, raised, and harvested outside the United States.
- 89% of voters are concerned that foreign importers of beef can legally put a U.S. food safety inspection sticker on a package containing beef that was born, raised, and harvested outside the United States.
- 77% of voters believe it is important that the beef they purchase was born, raised, and harvested in the United States.
- 74% of voters say they would be more likely to vote for a U.S. Senate or U.S. House candidate who supports the American Beef Labeling Act.
Two of the three beef and cattle organizations support mandatory country of origin labeling. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has traditionally not supported it. Following are statements from all three US beef/cattle groups.
NCBA President-elect Todd Wilkinson, DeSmet, South Dakota: “The American Beef Labeling Act (SB 2716) directs USTR to find a trade compliant path to mandatory country of origin labeling for beef. Unfortunately, the Act goes on to require implementation of the mandate if after a period of time a trade compliant path cannot be obtained.
“NCBA is opposed to an approach that would immediately trigger $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs directed at multiple segments of American agriculture. It is not a question if the tariffs would be imposed and there is no question these tariffs would damage the economy.
“Working for a trade compliant resolution is one thing but to say if we cannot get our way the US is going to mandate action that we know will cause $1 billion in tariffs is short-sighted and illogical.
“NCBA is opposed to the approach of SB2716 and is focused on creating source-verified and voluntary origin labeling that truly serves to connect with the consumer demand for locally and regionally raised products and in doing so return more of the beef dollars to cattle producers.
“NCBA has already petitioned USDA – FSIS to address unverified and misleading Products of the USA labels and continues to work with USDA-AMS to expand the use of Process Verified Programs for producer driven source verified beef labels. That process is moving forward, and we expect will be implemented in a manner that achieves the results we all want without triggering $1 billion in tariffs.
“This industry needs to work together on this constructive solution rather than adopting a path that will result in economic harm to agriculture,” said Wilkinson.
Brooke Miller, US Cattlemen’s Association President, Washington, Virginia:
“USCA has always been for MCOOL and always will be for MCOOL. There are other individuals in our industry that like to claim our policy is different than our stated policy and our written policy.
“We have been champions of MCOOL since day 1.
“I think our detractors try and say we are not for MCOOL because when MCOOL was repealed we pushed for a bill that would have established a definition for what could be called Product of the USA. In order to receive that label we pushed for the bill that established the label as cattle born raised and slaughtered in the USA. It was defeated as many felt that was not enough. However because it was defeated it has allowed beef imported into this country to be labeled Product of USA label for the past 7 years.”
Miller added, “We strongly support MCOOL!”
R-CALF USA President Brett Kenzy, Gregory, South Dakota said:
“Much is made of the current import/export dynamic in the beef industry. It is important to note that the value of our current import/export system is captured by the entities that can “sort” and “label” the beef in order to capture the maximum value – value that they keep the lions share of. This is evidenced by thin to negative margins for cattlemen even in times of historic demand and export volumes.
“The American Beef Labeling Act gives the power to “sort” to the American Beef consuming public – the best beef consumer in the world. Sorting by the informed consumer has the opportunity to stimulate demand for real American beef (what they think they’ve been buying all along) and result in competition for American cattle that beef is harvested from.
“The shortest and most efficient pathway for supply and demand to instruct efficient and sustainable production is through a truly transparent and competitive market,” said Kenzy.