U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) issued his support for the reinstatement of mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef products with his newly introduced Beef Origin Labeling Accountability Act.
The Beef Origin Labeling Accountability Act directs the U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Agriculture to determine a process to reinstate MCOOL in compliance with World Trade Organization rules.
The new act addresses open MCOOL-related trade disputes that the Canadian and Mexican governments have opened against the U.S., requiring the USTR consult with the countries’ governments.
“Consumers don’t know where their beef comes from,” Johnson said. “It could be South Dakota, Brazil, or Canada. U.S. producers raise better beef, and they’re not getting the credit for it. My bill takes a step in the right direction to get accurate labels back on these products to increase consumer confidence in American-made and grown products.”
The beef labeling measure follows H.R. 5081, a co-introduced bill introduced earlier this month by U.S. Reps. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) require country-of-origin labeling for beef and prohibit retailers from using the U.S. as the country of origin when selling foreign beef.
“Beef is a key product of the American West, and enhanced country of origin labeling guidance is vital to protecting small-scale farmers and ranchers that must compete with mega meatpacking conglomerates,” Hageman said. “Clarifying what it means to be ‘made in the USA’ will give consumers greater confidence in what they feed their families, support local farmers and economies, and crack down on deceptive labeling practices by the big four meatpackers.”
H.R. 5081 has six bipartisan cosponsors: Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).
Both legislations support S.52, the American Beef Labeling Act, a bipartisan bill reinstating MCOOL for beef.
Unlike H.R. 5081, which directs administration officials to determine a means of reinstating MCOOL that complies with World Trade Organization rules, the new House bill expressly states that no ruling by the WTO may affect the implementation of MCOOL for beef.
»Related: MCOOL letter sent to U.S. Senate and House members
History of MCOOL
MCOOL has been the center of contention after its initial introduction in the 2002 Farm Bill. Amended in the 2008 Farm Bill, MCOOL required retailers, such as grocery stores and supermarkets, to inform consumers about the origin of foods such as nuts, fruits, veggies, and meat.
Following its introduction, Canada and Mexico filed a dispute with the World Trade Organization, which authorized over $1 billion in tariffs against U.S. products from Mexico and Canada.
Congress repealed MCOOL in 2015.
In late 2021, Senate Bill 2716, the American Beef Labeling Act, was introduced by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, John Thune, Jon Tester, and Mike Rounds requiring beef to follow MCOOL requirements.
»Related: Exploring the major pros and cons of the MCOOL debate