A group of cattle ranchers is pushing hard for reforms on country-of-origin-labeling, known as COOL, and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture says he is already working on the situation.

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America is out with a new poll of voters that the group says shows “overwhelming” support for mandatory COOL legislation.

“Too many members of Congress talk favorably about reinstating mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, but they have not yet joined the legislation as cosponsors,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Our new poll makes it clear that an overwhelming number of American voters want Congress to enact MCOOL for beef, and they demonstrated this with their specific support for the American Beef Labeling Act.

“We hope lawmakers will carefully review this poll and quickly join this legislation as cosponsors to ensure its swift enactment.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilack said in recent days that the “Product of the USA” label on meat products should undergo a full-scale review, one that has long been sought by livestock producers who say that the label is inadequate and often misleading as it currently stands. 

This past week, the Federal Trade Commission finalized a rule that is intended to tighten the use of the Made in the USA standard. The FTC said that this update would especially benefit small business, who lack the resources to defend their products from imitators. However, the rule does not require specific actions be taken regarding beef labeling, and in conjunction with this rule, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a review of the “Product of the USA” label.

“I am committed to ensuring that the Product of USA label reflects what a plain understanding of those terms means to U.S. consumers,” Vilsack said.

Bullard and his R-CALF organization has waited long enough and that further review is not necessary, they say. They want a new act now.

The American Beef Labeling Act (S.2716) is a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2021 by Sens. John Thune, R-SD, Jon Tester, D-MT, Mike Rounds, R-SD, and Cory Booker, D-NJ. Despite attracting additional bipartisan cosponsors from Sens. John Hoeven, R-ND, Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM, Cynthia Lummis, R-WY, Martin Heinrich, D-NM, John Barrasso, R-WY, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, the bill has languished without action in the U.S. Senate agriculture committee, according to Bullard.

In March 2022, a bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House (H.R.7291) by Reps. Lance Gooden, R-TX, and Ro Khanna, D-CA. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-VA, has since cosponsored the House measure.

According to reporting by The Fence Post, both the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which have had opposing views on labeling, have praised Secretary Vilsack’s decision to review the label.

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD, said in a statement: “Consumers deserve to know the true source of their food. This news is a step in the right direction. It’s long past time to fix this label in order to restore transparency and fairness to the market.

“For years, we’ve called on the USDA to take action to stop foreign beef from receiving the ‘Product of the USA’ label. American consumers are being misled when the ‘Product of the USA’ label is allowed to be applied to foreign beef. American ranchers are faced with an unfair disadvantage in the marketplace, as lower quality foreign beef can falsely bear the ‘Product of the USA’ label. This undermines the high-quality of U.S.A. raised beef and needs to be stopped. Only products born, raised and slaughtered in the United States should receive the ‘Product of the USA’ label.”

Bullard’s R-CALF organization cites several statistics from a recent poll by Morning Consult on behalf of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) to support their stance: 

  • 86 percent of American voters support the American Beef Labeling Act that reinstates mandatory country of origin labeling for beef.
  • 90 percent of voters are concerned that foreign importers of beef can legally put a “Product of U.S.A.” sticker on a package containing beef that was born, raised, and harvested outside the United States.
  • 89 percent of voters are concerned that foreign importers of beef can legally put a U.S. food safety inspection sticker on a package containing beef that was born, raised, and harvested outside the United States.
  • 77 percent of voters believe it is important that the beef they purchase was born, raised, and harvested in the United States.
  • 74 percent of voters say they would be more likely to vote for a U.S. Senate or U.S. House candidate who supports the American Beef Labeling Act.

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