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​The Country of Origin labeling fight is not settled yet

Letters to the Editor | April 18th, 2024

To the editor:

The USDA has recently just released a new rule regarding Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef products. I’m happy that beef products being born, raised, and slaughtered in the USA will now be the only products that can receive the “Product of the USA” label, “Made in the USA” label, or an American flag on packaging. However, their extension date of Jan 1 of 2026 is way too long to wait to require compliance. Companies can even ask for a deadline extension. Are you kidding me?!? I also question letting the packing companies be allowed to keep labeling records on site and provide them for compliance on demand. And to top it off this is all still only voluntary.

Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling is so important because the USA is importing beef at an alarming rate. In 2023, imports of beef were at their highest levels ever, with 2024 projected to be even higher. At the high cost of beef production in the United States, we need moderate beef prices to keep us in business. The US has become a high importer of beef thanks to the packing industry trying to flood the market to suppress prices. COOL on all labels will stop that because if packers are mixing cheap beef into our hamburger and would have to disclose where it’s coming from. That cheap package of steaks from Australia may look a little less appealing compared to USA steaks if it’s labeled properly. Over 80% of consumers agree they would buy American if they knew they could let them decide who to buy their beef from.

As Congress goes into recess in the next few weeks with still no Farm Bill, we need to use this time to continue to hold them accountable to producing one. When we do, we should demand that COOL be reinstated. That means cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the US using the rules set forth when it was originally installed in 2009-2015. It costs us nearly nothing to do it, it gives producers better prices (in 2009-2015, cattle prices were high during that time), and consumers want it. We remember how important food security was during Covid, and we need to fix these problems.

We need Ag Secretary Vilsac and President Biden to pressure Congress into putting this on our Farm Bill. If Congress can pass a bill about TikTok this fast and get it to the president’s desk, there is no excuse that we can’t get COOL back. We should be protecting American beef and not importing it from other countries!

Corey Hart

Chaseley, North Dakota

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