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Wyoming, South Dakota nix country-of-origin-labeling for beef

Monday, February 27, 2017 23:34
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Mandatory country-of-origin-labeling bills for beef and ground beef made it out of committees in Pierre and Cheyenne, but got no further in the farm and ranch friendly South Dakota and Wyoming Legislatures.

Senate Bill 135 went down in the South Dakota Senate on Feb. 25. It would have required grocery stores in the Rushmore State to disclosure the country of origin of beef and ground beef.

House Bill 198 died in the Wyoming House on Feb. 3 when the Committee of the Whole opted not to consider the bill, which also would have required country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) for beef products in the Cowboy State.

State legislatures always have the ability to bring dead bills back to life, but there is not much time for that. The Wyoming Legislature plans to adjourn Friday. The South Dakota Legislature’s adjournment comes later in March.

The South Dakota bill, SB 135, made it out of the Senate State Affairs Committee on a 5-3 vote on Feb. 15, only to be killed on the floor 10 days later. The committee did provide a classroom for lessons in cattle and beef prices.

Rep. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, favored the bill because he’s experienced prices for calves falling to $677 in 2016; down from $1,658 in 2014 and $1,207 in 2015. By contrast, he said, ribeye prices went to $9.89 per pound in 2016; up from $8.71 per pound in 2012. Sirloin sold for $3.81 per pound in 2012, and went for $4.49 per pound in 2016.

Repeal of mandatory federal COOL mestures contributed to the collapse of the U.S. cattle prices, according to some cattlemen. They point to a 34 percent increase in Brazilian beef imports since mandatory COOL ended.

SB 135, however, ended up being opposed by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Pork Producers, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Retailers and South Dakota Chamber of Commerce. It was supported by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Farmers Union, and the Livestock Action Markets Association.

In Wyoming, HB 198 would have required every retailer and wholesaler selling beef in the state to comply with country-of-origin-labeling. Many retail outlets in South Dakota and Wyoming supply only 100 percent U.S. beef to their customers.

R-CALF USA, the national independent cattlemen’s organization based in Billings, MT, has not been deterred by the labeling bills going down in the two farming and ranching states. Bill Bullard, R-CALF’s CEO, is on a national tour to charge up members.

One of his goals is to get Congress to re-instate COOL for both beef and pork during the first 100 days of President Trump’s service. Bullard has a hashtag for that: COOLin100. He says the U.S. cattle industry is in danger of being “chickenized” by beef packers taking over the live cattle supply chain.

The mandatory COOL regulations were repealed by Congress after the World Trade Organization ruled the United States was obtaining an unfair trade advantage by the manner in which labeling was being enforced in the U.S. Mexico and Canada sought the ruling from the WTO after failing to reach an agreement with U.S. officials.

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