U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, this week continued his work to strengthen the cattle market for South Dakota’s producers who are struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis. Thune continued to press the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ ) to investigate potential anticompetitive activities in the highly concentrated beef packing sector, urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow state-approved meat and poultry products to be donated or sold across state lines, and joined a resolution to support country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef products in the United States in an effort to provide critical support to South Dakota cattle producers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
May 12, 2020: Thune Requests DOJ to Investigate Potential Illegal Practices by Beef Packers
“The lack of competition in the meatpacking industry has resulted in a vulnerable beef supply chain, which the current national emergency has destabilized further,” Thune joined his colleagues in writing to DOJ. “Recent pricing discrepancies between fed cattle and boxed beef are pushing cattle producers and feeders to the brink, adding to the longstanding concerns stemming from the state of competition among beef packers. Since February, we have seen live cattle prices slump by more than 18 percent, while wholesale beef prices have increased by as much as 115 percent during the same period.”
Thune previously requested that DOJ investigate price manipulation in the cattle market on April 9, 2020.
May 12, 2020: Thune Urges USDA to Allow State-Approved Meat and Poultry Products to Be Donated or Sold Across State Lines
“USDA should utilize the authority under this executive order to the greatest extent possible to maintain our animal protein supply chain,” Thune and the South Dakota delegation wrote to USDA. “Specifically, we request that you consider allowing state inspected meat and poultry products to be donated or sold across state lines during this crisis. Doing so would help ensure that we are fully utilizing our meat processing capacity and providing consumers access to safe, high quality meat products.”
May 13, 2020: Thune Joins Resolution to Reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling
“I’ll take a back seat to no one when it comes to fighting to give American consumers the right to know the country from which the beef they purchase comes,” said Thune. “South Dakota cattle producers work hard to produce high-quality beef – the best in the world. During these highly uncertain times, the least we can do for these ranchers and the consumers who depend on their products – now more than ever, I might add – is to provide them with the benefit and certainty of seeing ‘made in the USA’ labels on grocery store shelves in South Dakota and around the country.”
Thune, a longtime supporter of COOL, voted in favor of the 2002 and 2008 farm bills, both of which included mandatory COOL. In 2005, Thune voted against a two year delay of mandatory COOL. In 2007, Thune was an original cosponsor of legislation to move the mandatory COOL implementation date up from 2008 to 2007. In 2015, Thune voted against appropriations legislation that repealed mandatory COOL.