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The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association is a grassroots organization whose individual producer members determine issues of importance to the state's livestock industry. With input into the policy development, each member has the opportunity to influence SDSGA's policy and priorities. Individual members of the Association pull together to make powerful decisions - dedicated to promoting the livestock industry and enhancing the opportunity for profitability.

SD Stockgrowers News

Coalition Urges Senate to Reject COOL Repeal

Washington, D.C.- Today, a coalition of 142 rancher, farmer, rural, consumer, manufacturer, labor, faith and environmental groups from across the United States delivered a letter urging the Senate to reject both the effort to repeal the country of origin labeling (COOL) law and the so-called compromise to convert COOL into a voluntary labeling program for beef, pork and chicken. Congress enacted COOL for beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb, seafood and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills and expanded COOL to cover venison in the 2014 Farm Bill. Consumers overwhelmingly support these labels.
Rather than bow to pressure from the meatpacker lobby, the letter urges the Senate “to defend consumers’ right to know where their food comes from and the ability of farmers and ranchers to proudly identify their livestock as born and raised in America.”
In 2008, Canada and Mexico challenged COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO), contending that these commonsense labels were a barrier to trade. Canada and Mexico have threatened an absurdly high penalty designed to frighten the U.S. Congress into rashly repealing COOL rather than allowing the WTO dispute process to be completed.
“It is premature for Congress to unilaterally surrender to saber-rattling from our trading partners in the midst of a long-standing dispute. COOL opponents have highlighted Mexico and Canada’s threats of retaliation as if their aspiration to seek billions of dollars in penalties were already approved by the WTO. But these unapproved, unrealistically high retaliation claims are merely aggressive litigation tactics designed to frighten the United States, a standard practice in WTO disputes. Congress should not fall for it,” the letter observes.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal COOL for muscle-cuts of meat and ground beef, pork and chicken. Last week, dueling COOL amendments were offered on the Senate highway bill. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) introduced an amendment to totally repeal COOL that was identical to the House repeal bill. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced legislation that repealed mandatory COOL for beef, pork, chicken and ground meat but gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture the discretion to establish a voluntary COOL labeling program for only some of those meat products. The Stabenow-Hoeven measure was also offered as an amendment to the highway bill being considered this week in the Senate.
Both the full repeal and voluntary COOL measures inappropriately include chicken and ground meat even though the WTO ruled that the COOL labels for ground meat were WTO-legal and the dispute never considered chicken. The letter notes, “the legislation would repeal COOL for ground beef and ground pork as well as for chicken, but the WTO explicitly ruled that the COOL label on ground meat was WTO-legal, and the WTO never addressed chicken or other covered commodities.”
The broad-based coalition vehemently opposes any effort to repeal COOL but also opposes any effort to weaken COOL, including converting it into a voluntary labeling program. The United States had a voluntary COOL program for meat prior to implementing the mandatory labeling program under the 2008 Farm Bill, but the meatpackers refused to participate in the voluntary program.
“Voluntary COOL labeling is no solution to the WTO dispute: Meatpackers won’t use it, consumers won’t see it, farmers and ranchers won’t benefit from it and Canada and Mexico have already bluntly rejected this so-called compromise. Voluntary COOL is indistinguishable from repealing COOL,” the letter states.
Providing commonsense information to consumers is not something that should be left solely to the discretion of the meatpacking, food manufacturing and grocery retailing industries that have long-opposed consumer labeling disclosures. The letter states: “We do not believe that the interests of producers or consumers can be served by granting to the opponents of COOL the exclusive right to decide whether or not to affix voluntary COOL labels.”
The next phase of the WTO COOL dispute is expected to take up to six months and will consider the extent to which a simple consumer label has prevented Canada and Mexico from exporting cattle and hogs to the United States. Cattle imports are now higher than when COOL went into effect and hog imports are rapidly rising, severely undercutting the contention that COOL is a trade barrier.
“COOL is extremely important to our organizations and to the American public. We oppose any legislation that would undermine any portion of the COOL law, whether by outright COOL repeal or by converting the mandatory COOL law to a voluntary program,” the coalition letter states. “We urge Congress to stand up for America’s consumers, farmers and ranchers by rejecting any effort to unilaterally repeal or weaken a popular food label even before the WTO process has concluded.”

Stockgrowers Express Grave Concerns Over Import Rules

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack finalized two rules on Monday that will increase imports of fresh beef from 14 states in Brazil and from Northern Argentina into the United States. The Secretary’s rule would allow imports from South American regions known to have endemic Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and will likely lower cattle prices in the United States.

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association President Bob Fortune reacted by saying, “We are very worried that this rule will cause FMD outbreaks that can devastate our United States cattle herds resulting in massive infection of animals, economic losses to ranchers, and irreparable damage to consumer confidence. This rule is a bad idea for our family cattle ranches, it’s bad for our rural economies, and its bad for consumers.”

The rules, set to go into effect on September 1, would allow fresh (chilled or frozen) beef to be imported to the United States, assuming certain health and safety requirements are met by Argentina and Brazil in the process. However, Fortune says Brazil and Argentina don’t have a track record to back up those requirements.

“We know that both of these countries have struggled to meet import and inspection requirements under current rules, and USDA has had to suspend imports several times because of violations. Our ranch families deserve better protection to keep our animals healthy and our rural economies strong. Our customers deserve to know that their beef is raised under safe and healthy standards.”

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), one of the most contagious diseases known to infect cattle, is endemic in northern Brazil. Secretary Vilsack admits in his proposal for Argentina that the active FMD virus is present in these countries and that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has indicated that USDA is not currently capable of effectively responding to an outbreak of FMD in the United States. USDA also acknowledges that allowing beef imports from Brazil and Argentina will have a negative impact on U.S. cattle prices.

“Flooding the U.S. grocery stores with beef from South America will have a direct impact on our ranch families, and will only serve to compromise our consumer’s confidence in purchasing safe, high quality beef.”

Fortune concluded by saying, “South Dakota Stockgrowers Association is adamantly opposed to these import rules, and are very concerned that Secretary Vilsack would even consider adopting this rule that can only result in harming our ranch families.”