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Rounds’ Push for MCOOL in Farm Bill Endorsed by South Dakota, National Farm and Ranch Groups

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today announced endorsements from national and regional farm and ranch advocacy groups for his fight to include mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) in the 2024 Farm Bill.

This letter is endorsed by R-CALF USA, the US Cattleman’s Association, the National Farmers Union, North Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Farmers Union, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, Independent Cattleman of Wyoming, Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH), Cattle Producers of Washington, Montana Farmers Union, Montana Cattleman’s Association, Nebraska Farmers Union, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association (KCA), Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association, Cattle Producers of Washington, Texas Farmers Union, Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE), Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Southern Colorado Livestock Association, Stevens County Cattleman's Association and Rural Vermont. Members of the United State Senate have an opportunity to add their name to the Rounds MCOOL letter until July 12. 

“I am pleased that farm and ranch advocacy groups from across the nation are supportive of the effort to put MCOOL in the Farm Bill,” said Rounds. “American producers want their high-quality, domestic beef product labeled appropriately when put on the shelf next to foreign beef. Consumers want to know that they’re truly buying American products. Thank you to everyone who has joined this effort so far.”

“Country of origin labels on beef are essential for promoting competition in the grocery store,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. “With them, consumers can choose from which country they want their beef produced. Without them, it is the multinational beef packers that choose from which country the consumers’ beef will be sourced. Consumers deserve the right to choose and we applaud Senator Mike Rounds for taking this important step to ensure that mandatory country of origin labeling for beef is included in the 2024 Farm Bill.”

"The United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) strongly support the effort to reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) for beef in the 2024 Farm Bill,” said Justin Tupper, President of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “Ensuring transparency in our beef markets not only upholds consumer rights but also significantly supports our domestic producers by highlighting the quality and origins of American beef. Mandatory labeling will empower consumers with the knowledge they deserve and help maintain the integrity and competitiveness of our U.S. cattle industry. Together, we can ensure our producers thrive and our consumers are well-informed. We thank Senator Rounds for his leadership and commitment to championing the needs of American producers and consumers."

"I commend Senator Mike Rounds for pushing to restore mandatory Country of Origin labeling in the Farm Bill,” said Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Union. “Americans deserve the right to know where their meat comes from. It's about fairness for our farmers and ranchers, and empowering consumers with the knowledge they need to choose wisely at the grocery store.”

“Knowing it’s a heavy lift hasn’t stopped Senator Rounds. Like SDFU, he is fighting for truth for family farmers, ranchers and consumers in his letter asking the Senate Agriculture Committee for MCOOL inclusion in the next Farm Bill,” said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. “American consumers have long supported knowing where their food comes from. It’s time once again for MCOOL to have its place in the Farm Bill. We strongly support Senators Rounds’ effort and encourage other senators who claim they want more farm in the Farm Bill to put their signatures next to Senator Rounds and others on this bipartisan legislation.”

“The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association has stood behind MCOOL since the 2002 Farm Bill in support of indicating on the packaging label the origin of which the meat has come from,” said Doris Lauing, Executive Director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. “Our organization represents farmers and ranchers who work hard to produce high-quality products and deserve to have our beef recognized as produced here instead of a foreign country. We don't understand why every senator and legislator doesn't want to help provide consumers the information that our beef has been born, raised and processed in the United States. Again, we applaud Senator Rounds for leading the efforts. It is our hopes that he is successful in taking this over the finish line through the 2024 Farm Bill with everyone's cooperation and help.

As the deadline for the Farm Bill approaches on September 30, different policy frameworks have been unveiled by each party in both the House and the Senate, with the House framework already having passed through the House Agriculture Committee. Producers from South Dakota and across the nation have expressed strong support for including a MCOOL solution in the Farm Bill.  

Read the full text of the letter below.


Dear Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Boozman:

American farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality beef products in the world. Consumers and producers across the nation recognize this fact and are in search of additional market integrity. Therefore, we believe it is past time to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef. As the Senate Agriculture Committee develops a new Farm Bill, we believe it is necessary to work towards a feasible MCOOL solution.

For almost a century, U.S. trade law has required the majority of imported products to bear a country of origin label. Americans recognize the clear benefits of consumer labeling laws and regularly use this information when making important purchasing decisions. Yet as you know, a number of agricultural commodities have been excluded from country of origin labeling requirements. In response, a broad coalition of producer and consumer groups worked to incorporate retail-level MCOOL in the 2002 Farm Bill.

Following the successful implementation of MCOOL, producers and consumers enjoyed a short-lived period of marketplace transparency. This change applied the same country of origin labeling standards to beef as the majority of other consumer goods sold in America. Unfortunately, a coalition of large meatpacking companies and foreign beef interests worked to repeal MCOOL. After Canada and Mexico filed a dispute with the World Trade Organization (WTO), Congress officially rescinded the law in 2015.

Since the repeal of MCOOL, American cattle producers have experienced significant market fluctuations. Concurrently, the largest meat packers have realized immense profits through the use of forward contracting and formula-based sales. While cattle prices are currently on the rise, it is evident producers will again encounter market disruptions. As farmers and ranchers deal with a volatile market, it is imperative the federal government work to provide a level playing field. This can be achieved through supporting additional transparency in our beef labeling system.

Our American farmers and ranchers work hard to provide the safest and best tasting beef in the world. Producers of foreign beef should not receive an unfair advantage when engaging in our domestic markets, especially as our competitors do not always meet American animal health and consumer safety standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent “Product of the USA” final rulemaking is a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done.

Without a reasonable solution to the MCOOL question, hardworking American farmers and ranchers will continue to be put at a disadvantage. It is our hope Congress will use the Farm Bill to address this pressing issue. This would entail using the legislation to require U.S. trade leaders to develop a WTO compliant means of reimplementing MCOOL.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you as we move closer to finalizing the upcoming Farm Bill.