To the Editor:
Expensive beef and cheap cattle seem to be the rule these days, why? Why has the producer share of the food dollar fallen to historic lows? Does this have implications for not just producers of ag products, but the rural communities they depend on and support?
Mandatory Country Of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) was repealed by Congress in 2015 under threat of retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico. The World Trade Organization trumped U.S. sovereignty, and cattle prices in the U.S., Canada and Mexico tanked historically and have never recovered. After repeal, it became legal for processors to label any beef from the over 20 countries we import beef from as “Product of the USA” as long as it passed under USDA inspection. The bait and switch value added scheme of this century was off and running. Cattle are cheap, but beef is still expensive. Where does all that profit go?
I visit with our Congressional leaders about this issue and am told that MCOOL was a burdensome regulation, requiring processors to segregate and track cattle during harvest. I’m told that the WTO still wields a retaliatory threat. Further I’m told that people don’t care where their beef comes from.
To summarize, Congress is fully aware that foreign beef from over 20 countries can be labeled as “Product of the USA,” and will do nothing to reimplement MCOOL and restore competition for U.S. beef without producer and consumer action.
Cattle outnumber people 5-to-1 in South Dakota, and the health of the beef cattle industry matters.