BILLINGS, Mont. Earlier this month, Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Rounds, (R-S.D.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in cosponsoring the American Beef Labeling Act of 2023 (S.52), reigniting support for the bill across rural America.
Reintroduced in January of 2023, the bipartisan bill would reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef. According to R-CALF USA, this would aid in ensuring that American families know where their beef comes from and that American ranchers have fair cattle markets, as foreign beef imports continue to rise.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the United States continues to import beef from approximately 20 different countries and approximately 150,000 head of live cattle a month from Canada and Mexico.
Originally passed in the 2002 Farm Bill and amended in the 2008 Farm Bill, current labeling laws require consumers be informed of the country of origin of fresh fruits and raw vegetables, fish, shellfish, lamb, chicken, goat, venison, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts.
While the original law included beef and pork, Congress removed the products from the MCOOL law in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, in response to an adverse ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO), stripping consumers of knowing the origins of all beef bought at the grocery store.
Widely applauded by cattle producers around the country, the Act directs the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to determine the means of reinstating beef in the current MCOOL law in a manner that complies with WTO rules. If such means are not implemented within 12 months of the legislation’s enactment, the legislation will take effect on the one-year anniversary date.
“We are grateful for the ongoing bipartisan support for this important legislation as seen by Senators Hoeven and Luján’s recent cosponsorship of the MCOOL bill,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Beef should not be excluded from the law that currently requires many other food items to be labeled as to their origin.
“This legislation is vitally important to American consumers and American ranchers. We look forward to its eventual passage by Congress.”
R-CALF USA and its partners in the national MCOOL coalition remain strong in their support of the Act and are hopeful for the reintroduction of its House companion bill.