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Rounds Issues Statement on “Product of USA” Voluntary Labeling Rule

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) issued the following statement after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that their new rule will be going into effect, which defines that the “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” voluntary labels can only be applied to meat, poultry and egg products that are born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States.

“Integrity has been restored to the ‘Product of the USA’ label,” said Rounds. “For years, we’ve called on the USDA to take action to stop foreign beef from using the ‘Product of the USA’ voluntary label. Our work is finally paying off.

“This rule change is a victory for American consumers and producers. Now that this rule has been finalized, our consumers will no longer be misled by a ‘Product of the USA’ label that had previously been permitted for use on foreign products. Hardworking American producers will no longer be at a disadvantage in the marketplace, where their high quality product had previously been labeled the same as foreign beef.

“While we acknowledge the magnitude of this ruling, there is still more work to be done. We need to address meat packer concentration and Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef in order to restore transparency and fairness to the cattle market. The work must continue, and I remain committed to fighting for American ranchers and consumers.”

BACKGROUND:

Rounds led the congressional effort to close the “Product of USA” loophole:

  • On October 30, 2019, Rounds first introduced legislation which would have made certain that the “Product of USA” label is only applied to beef and beef products exclusively derived from one or more animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.
  • On October 30, 2019, Rounds sent a letter to then-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue calling attention to the “Product of USA” loophole and requesting the establishment of beef labeling requirements.
  • On February 3, 2021, Rounds met with Secretary Vilsack ahead of his confirmation vote to discuss the need to close the “Product of USA” labeling loophole. At the time, Vilsack agreed with Rounds that “consumers have the right to know where their meat comes from.”
  • On June 25, 2021, Rounds hosted a roundtable discussion with South Dakota retailers and cattle producers on issues facing the beef industry, including the “Product of USA” label loophole.
  • On July 1, 2021, Rounds issued a statement praising USDA’s decision to launch a full-scale review of the “Product of USA” label.
  • On August 5, 2021, Rounds introduced the USA Beef Act which would limit the use of the “Product of USA” label only to beef products that are born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.
  • On August 13, 2021, Rounds submitted a comment in opposition of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Center for Public Policy (NCBA) petition, which called for the elimination of the “Product of USA” label and the creation of a new “Processed in USA” label.
  • On April 2, 2022, Rounds responded to a solicitation for comments from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regarding the “Product of USA” label in the Federal Register. In his comments, Rounds stated: “It is clear that consumers notice the “Product of USA” labeling claim, or producers would not utilize this voluntary label. Consumers want to know the true source of their food. It is long overdue to fix the “Product of USA” label to restore transparency and fairness for consumers in the marketplace.”
  • On March 6, 2023, the USDA announced a new rule defining that the “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” labels can only be applied to meat, poultry and egg products that are born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States.

SUPPORTING QUOTES:

“I appreciate Senator Rounds’ work on this ruling,” said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. “This ruling levels the playing field for U.S. producers because consumers will know where their beef comes from. The truth is consumers trust U.S. meat because of the safety and humane treatment standards our cattle producers follow. And because this label will be protected by the USDA, consumers can trust the labeling and U.S. cattle producers’ will once again have a competitive advantage over foreign beef.”

“In our 2019 petition for rulemaking to FSIS, USCA called out the practice of applying ‘Product of USA’ and ‘Made in the USA’ labeling claims on beef products that the food safety agency itself admitted could have come from other countries,” said Justin Tupper, President of United States Cattlemen’s Association. “USCA is thrilled that the proposed rule finally closes this loophole by accurately defining what these voluntary origin claims mean. If it says ‘Made in the USA,’ then it should be from cattle that have only known USA soil. Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from, full stop. We recognize the relentless work by our champions in Congress, including my home-state Senator Mike Rounds, who sponsored the U.S.A. Beef Act that would have prohibited beef from bearing the phrase ‘Product of USA’ unless it was exclusively derived from U.S. cattle. We could not have elevated this issue without the many voices speaking up in support of the change.”

“With American cattle herds at a 60-year low, it is regrettable for consumers and cattle producers that it has taken 8 years to stop the mislabeling of foreign beef,” said Brett Kenzy, President of R-CALF USA. “Public sentiment has rallied to force the USDA to stop the lie, now America needs Congress to compel the truth by enacting The American Beef Labeling Act.”

“The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA) is very grateful for South Dakota Senator Michael Rounds efforts to re-establish Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in order that our producer members can once more take pride in showcasing their superior quality products and consumers can be reassured of purchasing wholesome nutrition for their families,” said Doris Lauing, Executive Director of South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. “SDSGA members are appreciative of and supportive of the Senator’s leadership to obstruct the current fraudulent mislabeling of foreign imported meats with our prized USA label. Thank you, Senator Rounds, for addressing this deceptive practice by importers resulting in losses of millions of dollars to South Dakota beef producers.”

“The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA) welcomes USDA FSIS’s rule that amends the voluntary Product of the USA label to only be allowed on meat that is born, raised, and slaughtered in the USA,” said Warren Symens, President of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. “The prior rule allowed the voluntary label to be used on beef that was re-packaged in the USA, no matter where it had originated. We have long held the position that this was a violation of the consumer’s trust, and that the Product of the USA label needs to have the truth and integrity behind it that consumers expect from our nation’s beef producers. SDCA applauds this change to protect the positive relationship our nation’s beef producers have with its consumers and thanks Senator Rounds for his efforts.”

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