The country of origin labeling debate is back, at least for South Dakota. The State Senate Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 5 to 3 in favor of a bill that would require a label detailing the origin of beef sold in South Dakota refrigerator cases. The measure so far has support from both the South Dakota Farmers Union and the South Dakota Stock Growers Association, although a similar bill presented last session failed to make it through the full Senate vote. Matt Sibley is the Legislative Director for the South Dakota Farmers Union. He says he’s optimistic for final passage, although he realizes it won’t be easy:
The bill, offically called SB 135, would require South Dakota retailers to present as much origination information as possible on the packaging. Proponents of the bill don’t believe the requirement will impose an undue burden. Silvia Christen, Executive Director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers says sellers of meat products can find the needed information on the boxes the meat comes in. If they can’t find that information, the law would require them to mark the origination as “unknown”. At this time, the bill only applies to beef, although Sibley says pork could be added later:
Just like COOL was a national issue, not everyone supports the measure. Representatives from the South Dakota Pork Producers, the South Dakota Retailers Association and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association have all issued varying concerns. Jodie Anderson, executive director of the SDCA says Country of Origin Labeling is a marketing issue. He acknowledged consumers want to know where their product comes from, but he argued studies have shown it ultimately doesn’t drive their purchasing decision and theres no evidence that it will ultimately add anything to producers bottom lines.