SD passes bill in support of truthful meat labeling
March 4, 2019
HURON, S.D. – South Dakota Farmers Union thanks the South Dakota State Legislature for passing Senate Bill 68 today, March 4, 2019. A win for South Dakota's livestock industry and consumers, the bill prohibits labeling cell-cultured protein as meat in South Dakota.
"Senate Bill 68 sends the message that our state's leaders care about protecting our livestock industry as well as South Dakotans' right to know where their food comes from," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and a fourth-generation cattle producer.
Truth in labeling is a policy focus for South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU). In October 2018, the organization sent livestock producers to Washington, D.C., to testify before the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in opposition to labeling cell-cultured protein as meat. SDFU is among the state's largest family farmer and rancher organization.
At the same time, SDFU launched an effort to educate their members and the general public on the potential dangers labeling cell-cultured protein as meat would have on consumers' right to know what they are eating as well as the devastating impact it would have on the state's livestock industry.
Senate Bill 68 sponsor, District 17 Sen. Art Rusch, credits SDFU's efforts with motivating him to sponsor the bill. He first learned about the issue by reading Farmers Union and the South Dakota Stockgrowers newsletters.
"I'm not a cattleman. I don't raise livestock. But, I think it is important that South Dakota take a position to protect our livestock industry," explained Rusch, a retired circuit judge and writer who represents Clay and Turner counties.
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Agriculture is South Dakota's No. 1 industry. In 2017, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated livestock value of production in South Dakota at more than $2.8 billion (value of production is primarily derived from a market year average price multiplied by weight of animals marketed).
Senate Bill 68 passed unanimously. The bill reserves the term, "meat," to be used only for protein harvested from animal carcasses, by amending the adulterated and misbranded food chapter of the South Dakota Codified Law code section 39 – 4 to further define the term "meat." Read the complete amendment here: https://sdlegislature.gov/docs/legsession/2019/Bills/SB68SAG.pdf.
"You see more and more that consumers care about the source, treatment and safety of the meat they eat," explains District 29 Sen. Gary Cammack, a Union Center cattle rancher and business owner serving as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "Our goal is to make sure consumers know when they buy something labeled as meat, it is what they traditionally considered as meat, harvested from an animal's carcass and proven to be safe."
As a fourth-generation livestock producer, Cammack understands the necessity of Senate Bill 68 to protect consumer trust and South Dakota's livestock industry. "As livestock producers, we are not afraid of competition. Having said that, we don't want our competition to build their business on our more than a century old, hard-earned reputation for producing a quality and safe product," Cammack said.
Members of the House agree, said District 28A Rep. Oren Lesmeister. "Our cattle producers spent the last hundred years making sure that U.S. beef is the No. 1, safest meat – we have the most stringent standards and regulations in place to ensure this. Now, if we were to allow this new technology to label its product as meat, and if there was a safety issue with this product, it could completely collapse our industry," said Lesmeister, a Parade rancher, small business owner and the bill's prime sponsor.
Now that South Dakotans can trust meat labels, Legislators Rusch, Cammack and Lesmeister are optimistic their actions today will impact Congressional leaders to take a stand on the issue.
"I hope our state's representative and senators will take notice and take on this issue at the national level," Lesmeister said.
Do your part
If you want truth in labeling, contact South Dakota's Congressional leaders and let them know that you do not support lab-cultured protein being labeled as meat: Rep. Dusty Johnson, call 202-225-2801 or visit website to email https://dustyjohnson.house.gov/; Sen. John Thune, 202-224-2321 or visit website to email https://www.thune.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact; Sen. Mike Rounds, 202-224-5842 or visit website to email https://www.rounds.senate.gov/contact/email-mike.
To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports family farmers and ranchers, visit http://www.sdfu.org.
–South Dakota Farmers Union