R-CALF USA Rejects Senate Proposal to Convert Mandatory COOL to a Voluntary Program
Billings, Mont. – Today, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard issued the following statement in response to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) introduction of legislation that would repeal mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for muscle cuts of beef and pork and put in its place a completely voluntary labeling program.
"After fighting for over 15 years to first win and then defend our mandatory COOL (country of origin labeling) law, our members are not about to throw in the towel while our U.S. Trade Representative is still fighting to defend our sovereign right to maintain mandatory COOL in the current arbitration proceeding now underway at the WTO (World Trade Organization).
"Our members flatly oppose this voluntary proposal and we reject the notion that a voluntary program would somehow be better than no COOL at all. We have nearly nine years of experience with two separate voluntary COOL programs administered by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and both of those programs reserved the USA label only for products born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States. But, after about eight years with little or no participation by meatpackers and retailers, we definitively concluded that voluntary COOL will not work and it must be mandatory.
"The reason voluntary COOL doesn’t work is because meatpackers and retailers don’t want it and without a mandatory program, our cow/calf members who sell feeder calves have no way to cause either packers or retailers to label the beef produced from their calves with a USA label after their calves have been sold into the multi-segmented beef supply chain.
"During the five years that mandatory COOL has been in effect, U.S. farmers and ranchers experienced a significant increase in the share of each consumers’ beef dollar that was allocated back to producers. In fact, the producers’ share of the consumer beef dollar increased from less than 43 cents the year mandatory COOL was implemented to about 56 cents today. Remarkably, that is a 20-year high. This has nothing to do with the price of beef; it has everything to do with the increased competition that COOL has brought to the marketplace by allowing consumers to initiate beef demand signals in the supermarket. COOL has reduced the market control that meatpackers have been enjoying in our U.S. live cattle supply chain by unleashing the competitive forces that were being severely constrained.
"We cannot compromise on COOL. Our U.S. judicial system has ruled that COOL is constitutional and serves a legitimate purpose; the vast majority of consumers want it; and, farmers and ranchers that don’t want their cattle and hog industry’s chickenized by multinational meatpackers need it.
"United States citizens deserve to know which meat is domestic and which is foreign and Congress should be working to defend such a fundamental right to know, not falling all over itself in an effort to figure out how to appease Canada and Mexico’s desire to sneak their products into our markets without a label."
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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.