Tester Keeps His COOL, Fights for Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling as Part of Rancher Relief Plan

Senator’s bipartisan resolution would support COOL, to give Montana beef producers competitive edge and consumers more transparency

In the third plank of his Rancher Relief Plan to provide urgent support to Montana cattle producers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today reintroduced—for the first time ever with a Republican—his resolution to support country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef products along with Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer, is pushing to bring back laws and regulations that require retailers to inform customers what country beef commodities originated in, providing more transparency to American shoppers and giving Montana producers a competitive edge. This is the first time his call to bring back mandatory COOL has been bipartisan in the Senate since it was repealed in 2015.

“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. “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.”

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 But in 2015, Congress repealed the law requiring the labels for beef, reducing the competitive advantage for American-made beef products—a decision Tester opposed. That decision has been blamed for tumbling prices and forcing American producers to compete with foreign meat without any way of showing where product comes from.

Tester’s Rancher Relief Plan is made up of a series of initiatives to help provide certainty to Montana’s small and medium sized cow calf operators. These bipartisan initiatives include:

  1. Increasing interstate commerce and diversifying meat production in Montana and neighboring states;
  2. Legislation to ensure fair prices at the farm gate from large packers;
  3. And the first bipartisan Senate push for mandatory Country of Origin Labeling since Congress repealed it in 2015.

In recent weeks, Tester has led the fight to provide certainty for Montana ranchers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Late last month, Tester demanded that Attorney General William Barr, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, open an investigation into reports of price fixing in the cattle market in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, after Montana’s ranchers recently saw the steepest price decline for cattle in forty years, Tester pushed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to take immediate action to stabilize beef markets.

Senator Tester has been an outspoken critic 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. Tester led a bipartisan group of 13 of his colleagues in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that the agency reevaluate the decision to lift the Brazilian beef import ban, which was implemented in 2017.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.