USCA President Kenny Graner: Made in America, but…… Truth (and profits) in Labeling
January 16, 2018
Last week, President Donald J. Trump made history as the first president in nearly 25 years to address the American Farm Bureau Convention. It seems absurd to think that it's taken this long for our country's leaders to talk about the one thing that connects all of us: Food.
President Trump didn't just stop his speech at the mention of food. He went on to recognize the importance of the entire agricultural system and what drives rural America by publishing the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. As part of his April 2017 executive order, President Trump established the task force to "ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impact agriculture and rural communities."
The task force's report included five call-to-actions to the President: Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America; Improving Quality of Life; Supporting a Rural Workforce; Harnessing Technological Innovation; and Developing the Rural Economy. This is a great starting point for the Administration to bring innovation and expansion back into the fabric of rural America. Especially notable was the task force's mention of "carrying more 'Made in America' products to markets at home and abroad" to boost "our country's global competitiveness." This was a welcome sentiment to those of us in the beef and cattle industry. We're thrilled that the President acknowledged the need to return to a more truthful county-of-origin labeling program for beef products produced here at home.
As a member of the United States Cattlemen's Association, I couldn't agree more.
U.S. cattle producers stand with you on this statement, Mr. President, but we need your entire Administration's support. We need to bring back truthful origin labeling for U.S. beef. In 2015, Congress repealed the mandatory Country-of-Origin labeling (COOL) law for beef products, instantly creating a regulatory loophole that allows meatpackers to comingle domestic beef with imported beef and still claim the "Made in the U.S.A." label. In fact, meatpackers are able to claim the "Made in the U.S.A." label anytime imported beef undergoes a "significant transformation" within our borders. That "significant transformation" can be as in-significant as sticking a knife in the meat, i.e. trimming or unwrapping and rewrapping the product in a new package. The American people believe they are supporting their local ranchers by buying "Made in the U.S.A." beef, but in many cases, they are buying imported beef.
This is not a truthful or transparent process and violates the principles of an honest marketplace, not to mention undercuts the American rancher and sends our jobs to ranchers in foreign countries. We're thrilled that President Trump recognizes this issue and has made a strong commitment to promoting products that are truly "Made in the U.S.A." The task force's report outlines a clear roadmap for returning prosperity and opportunity to rural and agricultural America. We thank the Administration for their support in a labeling program that restores the transparency to the marketplace and clearly promotes beef that is Born, Raised and Harvested in the U.S.A. and strengthens the bottom line of the U.S. cattle producer.
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