Rapid City, S.D. – Speaking yesterday to the 128th Annual Convention and Trade Show of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard told the crowd that restoring mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef was one of four core principles that independent cattle producers cannot compromise.
“Every industry has certain core principles that cannot be compromised under any circumstance, and for our industry, restoring mandatory COOL is among the most important,” Bullard said adding, “Non-core issues may be compromised when the outcome does not harm your opportunity to remain profitable, but restoring mandatory COOL is not on that list.”
Bullard scorned a recent legislative proposal by South Dakota’s U.S. Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds known as the U.S. Beef Integrity Act that makes changes to voluntary labeling, saying the proposal only addresses one of the numerous problems that have surfaced after Congress repealed the mandatory COOL law for beef in 2015.
“When a South Dakota rancher delivers calves to the auction yard or loads them in a truck for shipment to a buyer, he or she must have the assurance that the beef from those animals will be labeled as born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States.
“Only the full restoration of mandatory COOL for beef will provide that assurance and we must not accept anything less,” he said.
Bullard said the Sens. Rounds and Thune proposal falls well short of this requirement and he urged the audience to instead support the resolution by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) that was filed in Washington, D.C. the morning of the convention.
The Tester resolution calls on Congress to reinstate County-of-Origin labeling for pork and beef to allow consumers to make an informed and free choice about where their food comes from.
Bullard said mandatory COOL is the only tool that producers have to compete against the growing tide of cheaper, undifferentiated beef and cattle that are imported into the U.S. market.
This is what our industry needs, and our industry must direct all of its resources to accomplish the full reinstatement of mandatory COOL.
He also said that opponents of mandatory COOL are experts at placating the industry with minimalist legislation that does not address the core problem and that the Sens. Rounds and Thune legislation was such an example because it only tweaks the current and ineffective voluntary COOL program.
Bullard’s message was somewhat ominous as he said if the cattle producers in the room did not dig their heals in the ground and fight until they win their core issues, then only a handful of the children of the ranchers in the room would have the opportunity to carry on the ranching legacy in South Dakota.
“This is serious, it can no longer be business as usual,” Bullard concluded.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.