by Russell Nemetz – Montana Ag Network | July 26, 2018
BILLINGS – A federal judge has granted summary judgment to the USDA that could reinstate Country of Origin Labeling for ranchers and the beef they raise.
“Now that we have a court established finding that lack of country of origin labeling harms cattle producers in the United States, we’re going directly to the White House,” said Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA CEO.
In a lawsuit filed by R-CALF USA, the organization alleged that the USDA was unlawfully allowing imported beef to be both sold to consumers without a country of origin label and sold to consumers with a “Product of USA” label even if the animal from which the beef was derived was born, raised and slaughtered in a foreign country. Bullard says the court’s finding is very important.
“The federal district court found that the statute of limitations had expired to consider the merits of our country of origin labeling lawsuit,” said Bullard. “But very importantly, the court found that despite what USDA has said and despite what the meat packing lobby has said, U.S. cattle producers were harmed when country of origin labeling was repealed and that harm is fairly traceable to the USDA’s actions in repealing country of origin labeling. So that clearly establishes what we’ve said all along, and that is country of origin labeling is beneficial to U.S. cattle producers and the loss of that labeling will financially harm them and the court agreed with us.”
He said this is why it’s even more clear that the Trump Administration must act now.
“President Trump has initiated a buy American hire, American program and country of origin labeling fits right in,” said Bullard. “In fact, we’ve told the White House that unless we have labels that clearly distinguishes the U.S. product, U.S. consumers can’t choose to buy American which is what we need to help rebuild our economy and help rebuild the middle class. So we’re focusing right now on the White House and have provided them with a lot of information about country of origin labeling. We know they’re looking at it and we’re hopeful that they’ll initiate action to reinstate country of origin labeling real soon.”
Ranchers like Scott Fraser from Reed Point agree that country of origin labeling is important for them and consumers.
“The thing I like about it is it lets the consumer know that the beef they’re eating is born, raised and slaughtered in America,” said Fraser.
As for the future of country of origin labeling, R-Calf USA says it’s asking President Trump to immediately re-instate country of origin labeling either thru an executive order or thru his ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA.
Opponents of country of origin labeling argue the regulation represents costly tracking and labeling, potential retaliatory tariffs and a signal to our trading partners that the U.S. is not willing to abide by international trade decisions.