Editor’s note: CPA signed this letter, led by R-CALF USA, in favor of country of origin labeling (COOL). The WTO struck down the US COOL law several years ago in a case of judicial activism. The WTO agreement does not prohibit labeling, but the WTO judges did not merely interpret the agreement but created new law. Another reason the WTO may not be worth saving.
Billings, Mont. - More than 50 farm, ranch, consumer, manufacturing, labor and other organizations sent a joint letter today to U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) urging them to amend their recently introduced U.S. Beef Integrity Act (S.2744) by including it "within a comprehensive mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) bill" for beef and pork.
[December 9, 2019 | R-CALF]
View the letter here
The U.S. Beef Integrity Act (Act) is a voluntary measure that would reserve the U.S. label only for meat that is exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States. The letter explains that the Act's attempt to correct just the one isolated problem in which foreign beef can be mislabeled as a "Product of USA" will have the unintended consequence of undercutting the broad-based groups' efforts to fully reinstate mandatory COOL for beef and pork.
"Attempting to correct this single problem with stand-alone legislation, rather than reinstating mandatory COOL in its entirety, will unnecessarily complicate the efforts of U.S. cattle and hog farmers who desire to have their exclusively U.S.-produced beef and pork differentiated in America's consumer market," the groups wrote.
The groups further explain that without mandatory COOL, America's cattle and hog producers have no assurance that the beef and pork from their animals will ever be labeled as to their origin when sold to consumers in U.S. grocery stores. They explain that these producers are without the means to cause their superior, USA-produced beef and pork to be labeled as exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States.
The groups also point out that providing a statutory change to what constitutes beef and pork "Product of USA" would conflict with the statutory system already in place for meat products such as chicken and lamb. They explain that chicken and lamb remain subject to mandatory COOL, and thus the "Product of [Country X]" label is applicable only to imported covered chicken and lamb products, and there is never a "Product of USA" label on those meats. They state it would be less confusing for consumers and better for American ranchers for beef and pork to be reinstated under the COOL labeling system already in place for these other meats.
The letter concludes that while the groups are interested in correcting the mislabeling of imported beef, they firmly believe that addressing this issue in a stand-alone, voluntary measure is harmful to their ongoing, collective efforts to fully restore mandatory COOL for beef and pork.
"For this reason, we urge you to help us achieve our objective by amending S.2744 so cattle and hog producers in South Dakota and all other states will, once again, have the ability to offer their exclusively U.S.-produced meat products to American consumers," the letter states.
Groups joining the letter and seeking to amend the U.S. Beef Integrity Act include: American Agriculture Movement; American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3354 (AFL-CIO); Buckeye Quality Beef (OH); Cattle Producers of Louisiana; Cattle Producers of Washington; Coalition for a Prosperous America; Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association; Colorado Women Involved in Farm Economics; Community Alliance for Global Justice; Community Farm Alliance; Consumer Federation of America; Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias; Dakota Resource Council; Dakota Rural Action; Family Farm Defenders; Farm Aid; Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance; Farm Women United; Food & Water Watch; Government Accountability Project Food Integrity Campaign; Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska; Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Missouri Rural Crisis Center; Missouri's Best Beef Co-Operative; Murray County, Oklahoma Independent Cattlemen's Association; National Family Farm Coalition; National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association; National Women Involved in Farm Economics; Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics; North Dakota Women Involved in Farm Economics; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Northeast Organic Farming Association - New Hampshire; Northeast Organic Farming Association - New York; Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council; Northern Plains Resource Council; Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers; Oglala Sioux Livestock and Land Owners Association; Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association; Organization for Competitive Markets; Public Justice; Range Allotment Owners Association; R-CALF USA; Rocky Mountain Farmers Union; Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA); Rural Coalition; South Dakota Citizens for Liberty; South Dakota Stockgrowers Association; Spokane County Cattlemen (WA); State of Missouri National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Agriculture Committee; Stevens County Cattlemen's Association (WA); United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW); and Wyoming Women Involved in Farm Economics.