Tester, Rounds and Colleagues Fight to Reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling
Senators’ bipartisan resolution would support COOL to give American beef producers competitive edge and consumers more transparency
U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) along with a bipartisan group of their colleagues today introduced a resolution to support country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef products in the United States in an effort to provide critical support to American cattle producers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resolution, cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) urges the U.S. to enter into necessary trade negotiations to allow the United States to re-implement MCOOL in a manner that is compliant with World Trade Organization regulations. Re-implementing MCOOL would bring back laws and regulations repealed in 2015 that required retailers to inform customers what country beef commodities originated in, providing more transparency to American shoppers and giving American producers a competitive edge.
“It’s no secret that Montana ranchers raise the finest beef in the world, but American consumers have no way of knowing if the steak they’re getting at the supermarket comes from Absarokee or Australia,” said Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer. “It’s clear that Americans want to buy American-made products if they have the option, and country of origin labeling gives Montana producers the upper hand by showing that their cattle was raised within our borders, not halfway around the world.”
“Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) for beef fits within our discussions on how to improve food security, transparency for consumers and supply chain issues, all of which have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening both producers and consumers,” said Rounds. “This is not only misleading to consumers when they purchase meat at the grocery store, it puts our producers at a competitive disadvantage when marketing their products. This legislation is the broadest and strongest bipartisan support we’ve seen for MCOOL since it was eliminated in 2015, and it begins the critical and necessary discussion on food security in America. This is a win-win for producers and consumers. MCOOL proponents – including those who represent consumers and cattle producers – who are sincerely interested in moving the ball forward on MCOOL should get behind our legislation and help force the issue. Our goal should be to gain support and include it in must-pass COVID-19 legislation, both of which will encourage the president’s action.”
COOL regulations are currently in effect for several products, including chicken; lamb; goat; farm-raised and wild caught fish and shellfish; and most nuts. But in 2015, Congress repealed the law requiring the labels for beef, reducing the competitive advantage for American-made beef products. That decision has been blamed for tumbling prices and forcing American producers to compete with foreign meat.
Tester and Rounds have been outspoken critics of Brazilian beef imports after reports that the country was exporting rotten beef and attempting to cover it up with cancer-causing acid products in 2017. The senators, along with a bipartisan group of 12 colleagues, sent a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that the agency reevaluate the decision to lift the Brazilian beef import ban, which was implemented in 2017.