Mandatory country-of-origin labeling petition gains 250k signatures in 7 days
BILLINGS, Mont. — Launched on April 23 by R-CALF USA and several of its rancher-members, the petition urging the president and Congress to immediately pass mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef, pork and dairy products has gained 250K signatures in just 7 days. R-CALF USA states in the petition that MCOOL will strengthen national food security and help stimulate economic growth. The petition can be viewed at www.DemandUSABeef.com.
R-CALF USA member Kerry Cramton, a Kansas cattle producer who, among several other grassroots cattle producers, was instrumental in launching the petition and said the goal is to demonstrate to the President and Congress that they have been deceived into believing that neither consumers nor cattle producers wanted a mandatory law to provide consumers information as to where their beef, pork and dairy products actually originate.
“There is a handful of very powerful lobbying groups that have held the President and Congress at bay on this critically important initiative and our petition clearly shows that our government has been misled,” said Cramton.
“Consumers want to know where their beef is produced and they deserve the opportunity to support American ranchers by purchasing beef exclusively born, raised, and harvested in the United States,” she added.
R-CALF USA has strongly supported MCOOL ever since it helped pass the original law in 2002. The meatpacking lobby fought aggressively to repeal MCOOL for beef and pork ever since — failing to do so in a U.S. federal court in 2013, but ultimately succeeding in 2015 with the help of an adverse ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
As the COVID-19 pandemic backs up United States cattle due to processing plant slow-downs and shutdowns, leaving many American ranchers with no access to the marketplace, meatpackers are continually sourcing cheaper foreign cattle to the detriment of U.S. cattle producers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that during the last two weeks U.S. meatpackers sourced over 12,000 live cattle from Canada to be harvested in the United States.
“This is unconscionable,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard who said his group has members who have not been able to get a bid for their cattle for the past five weeks.”
Bullard said if MCOOL were in place today, consumers could immediately correct this situation by choosing to buy beef that is exclusively born, raised, and harvested in the United States, which he said would help American ranchers.
Bullard said MCOOL would also help consumers avoid beef produced in foreign countries with ongoing animal disease problems and unknown animal husbandry practices.
In February the USDA announced it would begin allowing imports of raw beef from Brazil. The USDA then welcomed the first shipment of raw beef into the U.S. from Namibia, Africa on April 17. Both countries are known to harbor foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the most contagious disease known to cattle, hogs, sheep, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals. In addition, in recent years the Brazilian food inspection system was cited for corrupt practices.
Bullard said there was a 22% surge in the combined volume of beef and cattle imports from mid-March to early April.
“While American ranchers are unable to access their own market, importers and meatpackers are increasing the volume of imported beef while simultaneously depriving U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers’ access to their own markets. This has to stop and MCOOL will put the choice in consumers’ hands as to where they want their beef to be born, raised and harvested,” said Bullard adding, “We are confident that most consumers will want USA beef.”
Given the hugely successful petition drive for MCOOL, R-CALF USA has now established a ‘Demand USA Beef’ Fundly crowdfunding page in an effort to raise $50,000 so it can bolster the group’s promotional and lobbying efforts to secure the passage of MCOOL for beef, pork and dairy products as quickly as possible.
In March, R-CALF USA launched a new website www.USABeef.org, a free platform for cattle ranchers and farmers who raise and sell cattle or beef that is exclusively USA born, raised, and harvested directly to consumers. The site is growing daily and currently includes 335 farms, ranches and businesses from 41 states. Consumers can call the beef providers on this list to obtain USA beef produced in their state.