Ranchers react to SD Senator Rounds' meat labeling resolution - MCOOL

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 9:38 PM MDT
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Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for foreign beef products has become a contentious issue in South Dakota.

Repealed five years ago, M-COOL as it’s known has re-surfaced in the form of a resolution supported by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds is a co-sponsor.

But trade retaliation from Canada or Mexico could threaten the resolution.

Earlier this year , the Association, along with State Senator Gary Cammack introduced an M-COOL resolution in the state legislature to ask the trade teams in Washington D.C. to re-negotiate trade agreements.

James Halverson is the executive director of the Stockgrowers Association and while he's supportive of it, says one argument against the country of origin labeling is the threat of tariff retaliation from countries such as Canada or Mexico.

Halverson says Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota and a coalition of bi-partisan senators of other states liked the resolution and have taken it to the federal level.

However, not all beef producers in South Dakota are happy with the resolution and feel the resolution isn’t helpful, nor does it go far enough.

"It's not a law,” says rancher Kenny Fox. “Both senators said they won't vote for it they will not vote for it.”

Fellow rancher Mike Fuller wants South Dakota’s senators to do more than just support a resolution that has no legal ramifications.

“They support the resolution which aggravates me why support the resolution if you won't vote for it."

The Mandatory Country Of Origin resolution doesn’t legally require meat packers who process the meat to label its origin. Meat packers can continue to market cheaper, foreign meat. Fuller also says there’s no telling what’s in the foreign beef.

"They use drugs we don't use. NFL tells their players not to eat beef unless where they came from because if you eat Mexican beef you can test positive for steroids that aren't legal in the United States."

And they say the major meat packers apparently have enough meat even when they don't buy cattle from the United States.

Rancher Judd Schump is frustrated with the meat packing industry and the lack of processing going on.

"Another excuse they gave us, a smokescreen if you will, is they have so much beef in cold storage, that they just can't process right now, because there is so much in cold storage the question on producers' mind right now is where is that beef that's in cold storage, because that should be supplementing grocery stores while meat plants are shut down."

Meanwhile consumers are paying record high prices for beef.

“I think immediately absolutely these imports need to be shut down. It doesn't make any sense to keep pouring meat in here when we have all these cattle here."

Liz May, a cattle producer who also runs a grocery store, is frustrated with the current situation.

"We don't have the money, the power for lobbying."

"As bad as it is, I hope this wakes the consumers up."

In a statement from Senator Rounds : "the reality is we need the president's attention on this issue and that's what we're focused on. This resolution, once signed by the president, has the force of law, requiring our trade negotiators to include MCOOL in our trade pacts."