Tester Announces Bipartisan Legislation Ensuring American Beef is Labeled ‘Product of USA’

Senator’s bipartisan legislation will ensure Montana beef producers receive fair prices, provide consumers more transparency

As a part of his years-long push to improve market transparency and ensure fairer prices for Montana producers, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced bipartisan legislation, the American Beef Labeling Act, which would ensure that beef raised in the United States is labeled as a product of the USA.

The legislation is also sponsored by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and will be introduced next week.

“Montana ranchers raise the best cattle in the world, and it’s time American families are guaranteed the right to know whether their beef is from Broadus or Brazil,” said Tester. “With the announcement this week that there is another Mad Cow Disease outbreak in foreign meat, it’s more important than ever that consumers know when they’re buying American beef at the supermarket. This bipartisan legislation will level the playing field for Montana’s family farmers and ranchers and protect the health and safety of American families.”

The American Beef Labeling Act will reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) for beef. The legislation will require the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to develop a World Trade Organization (WTO)-compliant means of reinstating MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment. If USTR fails, MCOOL will automatically be reinstated.

Tester’s bipartisan legislation also comes in the wake of reports of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or “Mad Cow Disease,” cases in Brazil, a notable exporter of beef to the United States. Ensuring American beef is labeled as a product of the USA will give consumers clarity and peace of mind when buying beef, guaranteeing the highest standards of safety and quality are met.

Cattle groups praised Tester’s legislation:

“During the nearly seven years since MCOOL for beef was repealed, U.S. cattle producers experienced lower cattle prices and were deprived the means to build demand for their U.S.-produced cattle,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA. “Senators Thune and Tester’s bill to restore MCOOL for beef will now provide that means, and for that we are extremely grateful.”

“We greatly appreciate the work of Senators Thune and Tester in continuing to push forward solutions to define what constitutes a U.S. beef product,” said Justin Tupper, vice president of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “From the perspective of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, that label should pertain only to beef that was born, raised, and harvested in the U.S.A. This legislation provides a pathway for achieving clear, accurate labels so that consumers can continue choosing to put high quality American beef on their plates.”

“On behalf of America’s family farmers and ranchers, we applaud Senators Thune and Tester for introducing common sense legislation to help consumers know where their food comes from,“ said Rob Larew, president of National Farmers Union. “We have long fought for mandatory Country of Origin labeling for food products, recognizing consumers want this information so they can make educated decisions in grocery store aisles.”

Tester has fought to reinstate MCOOL since its 2015 repeal, and in 2020 introduced a bipartisan resolution urging the U.S. to enter into necessary trade negotiations to allow the United States to re-implement it in a manner that is compliant with WTO regulations.

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has long been an advocate for increased market transparency and more competitive practices for Montana producers. He recently introduced his bipartisan Meatpacking Special Investigator Act which will create a new dedicated office within the Department of Agriculture’s Packers and Stockyards Division, addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries. He also recently introduced his bipartisan Livestock Disaster Relief Act with Senator Hoeven (R-N.D.) to ensure that Montana’s ranchers receive necessary relief to recover from future disasters. In response to this year’s extreme weather he has also secured USDA relief for Montana producers through the authorization of haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, LFP funding, and ELAP funding.