You can find out exactly where your T-shirt was made if you check the tag or label. Is it too much to ask for the same level of certainty when it comes to the beef you feed your family? The answer is plain and simple: no.
Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as “Product of the U.S.A.” Strange, right? In theory, the ground beef you picked up from the grocery store to fire up on the grill this weekend during the game could have originally come from Brazil. Just because it was packaged here in the United States, there could still be a misleading label on it. At that point, the only thing that’s potentially made in the U.S.A. is the packaging it’s wrapped in — if that.
In South Dakota, we take our beef seriously. Like you, if I’m at the local grocery store, I want to make sure the beef I’m buying is coming from producers in our state or one of the other beef-producing states around the country. After all, South Dakota cattle producers work tirelessly to produce some of the highest quality beef in the world.
As a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, standing up for South Dakota’s cattle producers is, and always will be, a top priority for me. I recently introduced the American Beef Labeling Act, which would 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 mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef. The WTO is essentially the global referee when it comes to trade between nations. Specifically, my bill would give USTR six months to develop a reinstatement plan followed by a six-month window to implement it. If USTR fails to reinstate MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment, it would automatically be reinstated for beef only. That would ensure when you see a label on your beef, you can trust it.
Since coming to Congress, I have been a staunch and consistent supporter of country of origin labeling. I believe that in order to ensure the viability of cattle production in this country, the system in which producers operate must be fair and transparent. I voted in favor of both the 2002 and 2008 farm bills, which included MCOOL that the WTO unfortunately struck down. Throughout the years, I have supported nearly every piece of legislation that has crossed my desk that prioritizes country of origin labeling. And I won’t stop until we get the results our producers need and want.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association convention in Spearfish about the importance of implementing MCOOL. Folks were crystal clear: South Dakotans want to know where their food is coming from. And I agree.
This past year has showcased the vital role our farmers and ranchers have in the domestic food supply chain and the urgent need to strengthen it. Rest assured, I am working tirelessly to build support for my American Beef Labeling Act because having transparency in labeling that benefits both our producers and consumers is just common sense.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a long road ahead in order to get this bill into law, but I’ve traveled long roads before. I’m thankful to have bipartisan support from my colleagues in the Senate, and I look forward to working with anyone who is willing to stand up and fight for our consumers and producers.