(APRIL 27) – In 2015, USCA Director Emeritus Leo McDonnell testified in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee against the repeal of mandatory country-of-origin labeling. USCA knew at that time that if the program were to be stripped clean from the books at USDA, there would be no recourse for packers claiming the “Product of the U.S.A.” label on imported beef as there would be no accurate definition for what constitutes a U.S. beef product. Later that year, that’s exactly what we saw happen when Congress voted to repeal the program in full.
In October 2019, USCA utilized the Leo McDonnell COOL Fund to file a petition for rulemaking to USDA. Around that same time, Senator Jon Tester introduced a resolution supporting a truthful and transparent origin labeling program for U.S. beef. Senator John Thune and Mike Rounds then introduced a bill that would restrict the “Product of the U.S.A.” label to being borne by beef that was truly born, raised and harvested in the U.S.
Then, on March 26, 2020, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) responded to our petition, suggesting that not only does the current loophole allow imported beef to be labeled as “Product of the U.S.A.” but that it could be happening in meatpacking plants across the nation.
So, what does this mean?
This is the first major progress since COOL was originally passed in the 2008 Farm Bill – and the first step towards truth in labeling since the program’s repeal in 2015.
What about mCOOL?
Mandayory COOL remains USCA’s primary goal, and the wishes of the majority of the cattle producers and consumers. While we are not currently finding support from a significant number of Members of Congress, we will continue to work to that end. USCA members should continue to call and write their elected representatives and demand truthful, transparent labeling on U.S. beef products. The support of Congress will be a critical part of the pathway forward for COOL, and that will be accomplished through a grassroots push by cattle producers. USCA’s request for a clear definition from the USDA FSIS is the first step to securing truthful and accurate labels.
And what happens next on the petition?
USDA will open a public comment period on their proposal in the next 2-3 months. We must rally around definitions – the pathway towards country-of-origin labeling begins with closing the current loopholes. The approach suggested by USDA would get labeling right on beef. Now, we need to work to get it right on cattle. Join us in putting an immediate halt to fraudulent labeling by supporting this definition change.