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

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.”

SD Stockgrowers Association Stands Firm in Support of Meat Labeling

The United States Senate Agriculture Committee hosted a hearing on Thursday, June 25 to consider legislation that would repeal Country of Origin Labeling and threats of trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico. Representatives from the North American Meat Institute, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Kansas Livestock Association, New York Wine & Grape Foundation and Archer Daniels Midland Company were all members of the panel of witnesses chosen to testify on the dangers of COOL. Only one cattle producer, Leo McDonnell of Montana, was allowed to testify in defense of COOL.

“South Dakota Stockgrowers Association has supported COOL since its beginning and we continue to believe that mandatory Country of Origin Labeling is the best and only option to make sure that our customers have information about where their food comes from,” said Bob Fortune, SDSGA President from Belvidere, SD. “It’s unbelievable that our United States House and Senate are caving in to the threats of Canada and Mexico to remove the labels that tell people where their food comes from.”

“Repealing COOL or changing it to a voluntary labeling program will not work and South Dakota Stockgrowers can’t support anything short of a mandatory label. As ranchers and as consumers at the grocery store we will have no way to compel the packing industry to label our food unless it’s required of them. We believe that there is a way to satisfy Canadian and Mexican concerns without removing the right of families to know where their food comes from.”

The ruling from the WTO, found that Canada and Mexican cattle are treated differently when imported to the United States due to labeling requirements but the arbitration process has yet to determine what, if any damages can be claimed by the other countries. That arbitration process is just beginning and could take most of the summer to complete.

“It is way too early for Congress or the Senate to throw in the towel on COOL. We are really glad to hear that the USDA is committed to the arbitration process and finding a solution that allows us to keep COOL in place as a mandatory program,” said Fortune. “Stockgrowers members have worked hard to keep COOL, and we appreciate Representative Noem and Senator Thune’s support to stand against repealing Country of Origin labels.”