Ravalli Republic: Consumers overwhelmingly want country of origin labeling

by Gilles Stockton

A new poll conducted on behalf of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) finds that 86% of Americans favor reinstatement of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef and pork. In 2015 Congress rescinded the requirement that imported beef and pork be labeled. However, it was only for beef and pork. All other foods, including lamb and seafood, continue to be labeled. Immediately following this action by Congress cattle markets crashed by nearly half, resulting in billions of dollars lost to ranchers in rural states such as Montana.

“The American Beef Labeling Act” (S.2716), will reinstate COOL. It is a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Additional bipartisan cosponsors include – 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). In March 2022 a bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House (H.R.7291) by Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA). Both bills languish without action.

You will notice that with the exception of Senator Tester, who has always been a leader in supporting COOL, neither Senator Daines nor Representative Rosendale are sponsors of the American Beef Labeling Act. Why? Agriculture remains, by far, the most important industry in Montana with the livestock portion the largest of all. So why is it that only Senator Tester sponsors COOL? Isn’t Montana’s most important industry worthy of support from all of our elected officials? Especially considering that because of the lack of COOL our state’s economy is suffering.

When we look at the five candidates currently running to represent us in Congress we find a mixed bag. As mentioned above, Representative Rosendale could be sponsoring the American Beef Labeling Act, but isn’t. Ryan Zinke was in Congress in 2015 and actually voted to remove beef and pork from the labeling requirements. He has not repudiated that vote.

As for the other three candidates, both Penny Ronning and Monica Tranel lists reinstatement of COOL as a priority on their websites. I suspect that Gary Buchanan would, when asked, express support for COOL; but why is COOL not important enough to list as one of his policy priorities?

Reinstatement of COOL would provide immediate economic relief to rural Montana. Isn’t that important? Particularly considering that Montana’s ranchers are suffering from serious drought and are forced to sell cattle in a depressed market caused by imports from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and Nicaragua.

Eighty-six percent of Americans would like to know the origin of their beef purchases. They have a right to that information. Montana’s ranchers have a right to a fair and transparent market. The American Beef Labeling Act would restore COOL, and all the candidates who would like to represent us in Congress need to make beef labeling a campaign priority.