I am a U.S. cattle producer. My family and I make our living by raising U.S. beef, which is the safest, healthiest and tastiest beef in the world. Like thousands of other U.S. cattle producers, I want to be able to label my beef with a “USA” label so that consumers can choose to purchase U.S. beef if they want to. Unfortunately, Congress is preparing to vote on an omnibus federal spending measure that includes a provision that would prevent us from being able to do that.
While Canada and Mexico claim that country of origin labeling (COOL) has restricted trade and harmed their beef industries, exactly the opposite is true. Since COOL was implemented we have had record or near-record cattle and beef imports from both Canada and Mexico in terms of the percentage of their cow herd productions. Both nations have experienced record-breaking prices for both their cattle and beef. Where is the harm?
A vote to repeal COOL means the United States will go back to old practices that allow any foreign imported meat that’s transformed even in the smallest way - cutting it up, grinding it or even just seasoning it - to be considered a U.S. product. Consumers will not know whether they are eating chicken from China or beef from Namibia.
Canada and Mexico even refuse to permit the U.S. to establish a voluntary COOL program. A voluntary program would free Canada and Mexico from having to label and identify their beef, but would prevent multi-national importers from being able to use the U.S. Beef or U.S. Pork label. A majority of Congress appears to agree with Canada and Mexico. The question every consumer and beef producer should ask is why they don’t want the U.S. to preserve truthfulness in labeling. Who benefits from this?
Canada and Mexico have been given the green light by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to impose roughly $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. products because the WTO says COOL discriminates against Canada and Mexico. Yet the rules to implement COOL are no different than those used today on over 135 branded beef programs in the U.S.
Today, more than 60 countries around the world require COOL. If Congress vote to repeal the U.S. COOL law entirely, our great nation will not be among those 60 nations. When did the United States give up our right to govern ourselves, particularly related to something as simple as labeling where our food comes from? Why won’t Congress stand with U.S. consumers and U.S. cattle producers?
A vote to Repeal COOL is nothing more than a vote to deceive consumers, especially when there are better options.
Beer is the current president of the United States Cattlemen's Association. She, along with her husband Mike, and four children, raise beef cattle in the prairies of South Dakota.