Former rancher says failure to restore meat labeling law is costing rural America 'billions'


Tess Bonn, The Hill



A former cattle rancher said Friday that the U.S. government’s inaction over the restoration of a mandatory labeling program on certain meats is having a major impact on farmers and ranchers across the country.


Bill Bullard, who now leads an organization that represents thousands of independent cattle producers, says the Trump administration and Congress “refuse" to give them "the tools they need to compete in the market place." This includes being able to market their products as "Made in the USA," which he emphasized would first require the restoration of the Country of Origin labeling (COOL) on beef and pork products.


While COOL regulations are still in effect for some meat products like lamb and chicken, Congress in 2015 repealed a program that requires this same labeling requirement for beef and pork. The decision was made in response to a series of rulings by the World Trade Organization prohibiting country of origin labels on some products due to concerns that the requirements were too costly and discriminated against meat imports. 


Bullard criticized the decision to rollback the program, saying the move has created a "corporate welfare program for the meat packers."


"It insulates them from competition and it forces the American farmer and rancher to try and compete in a global marketplace with their hands tied behind their back because they can't use the fundamental tools necessary to compete and that's to distinguish your higher quality product in the marketplace," Bullard, CEO of R-Calf USA, told Hill.TV.


"This is a huge problem costing billions of dollars to rural America," he added.


Bullard said the current system provides little transparency to consumers themselves about the origins of their meat, suggesting that imports may not be held to the same standard, even though all meats are required to pass inspection from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


“We believe that American consumers would like to purchase the best beef in the world that’s grown in the best of conditions and that’s the superior USA product,” he said.


There have been some efforts on part of House Democrats to restore the full mandatory meat labeling program.


Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) introduced a resolution in October supporting the reestablishment of COOL...


more, including video report [1:06 min.]