Thursday, July 25, 2024
HomeAg NewsRounds Launches Effort to Get Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for Beef...

Rounds Launches Effort to Get Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for Beef in the Farm Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today launched a nationwide effort to support American farmers and ranchers by including Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) in the 2024 Farm Bill.

As the deadline for the Farm Bill approaches on September 30, different policy frameworks have been unveiled by each party in both the House and the Senate, with the House framework already having passed through the House Agriculture Committee. Producers from South Dakota and across the nation have expressed strong support for including a MCOOL solution in the Farm Bill.

MCOOL was originally passed in the 2002 Farm Bill but then repealed in 2015 by Congress due to Canada and Mexico filing disputes with the World Trade Organization. A report done before the 2015 repeal showed 90% of consumers favored requiring food sellers to indicate on the package label the country of origin of fresh meat.

A majority of products imported into the United States have to disclose the item’s country of origin to the consumer. Currently, country of origin labeling laws apply to agricultural food products like lamb, goat, chicken, venison, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and ginseng.

Rounds is inviting Senate colleagues to join his letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee requesting that they add MCOOL to the framework for the 2024 Farm Bill. Rounds is also requesting that farm and ranch advocacy groups call on their Senators to join him on this effort. The deadline to sign on to the letter is June 24.

“It is past time to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling for beef,” said Rounds. “U.S. farmers and ranchers work hard to produce high-quality products for their fellow Americans. They deserve to have their beef differentiated from foreign-made product. Consumers want to be able to purchase beef born, raised and processed in the United States without wondering if it’s secretly coming from a foreign country. I encourage my colleagues to join me in the fight to get MCOOL included in our next farm bill.”

BACKGROUND:

Rounds has been a vocal supporter of MCOOL since he first started in the Senate in 2015. Rounds also led the congressional effort to close the ‘Product of USA’ labeling loophole. He first introduced legislation in October 2019 that would make certain the ‘Product of USA’ label is only applied to beef products born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. Following years of work, in March 2024, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized a 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.

Read the full text of the letter below.

+++

Dear Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Boozman:

American farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality beef products in the world. Consumers and producers across the nation recognize this fact and are in search of additional market integrity. Therefore, we believe it is past time to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef. As the Senate Agriculture Committee develops a new Farm Bill, we believe it is necessary to work towards a feasible MCOOL solution.

For almost a century, U.S. trade law has required the majority of imported products to bear a country of origin label. Americans recognize the clear benefits of consumer labeling laws and regularly use this information when making important purchasing decisions. Yet as you know, a number of agricultural commodities have been excluded from country of origin labeling requirements. In response, a broad coalition of producer and consumer groups worked to incorporate retail-level MCOOL in the 2002 Farm Bill.

Following the successful implementation of MCOOL, producers and consumers enjoyed a short-lived period of marketplace transparency. This change applied the same country of origin labeling standards to beef as the majority of other consumer goods sold in America. Unfortunately, a coalition of large meatpacking companies and foreign beef interests worked to repeal MCOOL. After Canada and Mexico filed a dispute with the World Trade Organization (WTO), Congress officially rescinded the law in 2015.

Since the repeal of MCOOL, American cattle producers have experienced significant market fluctuations. Concurrently, the largest meat packers have realized immense profits through the use of forward contracting and formula-based sales. While cattle prices are currently on the rise, it is evident producers will again encounter market disruptions. As farmers and ranchers deal with a volatile market, it is imperative the federal government work to provide a level playing field. This can be achieved through supporting additional transparency in our beef labeling system.

Our American farmers and ranchers work hard to provide the safest and best tasting beef in the world. Producers of foreign beef should not receive an unfair advantage when engaging in our domestic markets, especially as our competitors do not always meet American animal health and consumer safety standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent “Product of the USA” final rulemaking is a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done.

Without a reasonable solution to the MCOOL question, hardworking American farmers and ranchers will continue to be put at a disadvantage. It is our hope Congress will use the Farm Bill to address this pressing issue. This would entail using the legislation to require U.S. trade leaders to develop a WTO compliant means of reimplementing MCOOL.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you as we move closer to finalizing the upcoming Farm Bill.

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Latest Stories