WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today announced the American Beef Labeling Act, legislation that would reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef. This legislation, which will be formally introduced next week, would require the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to develop a World Trade Organization-compliant means of reinstating MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment. USTR would have six months to develop a reinstatement plan followed by a six-month window to implement it. If USTR fails to reinstate MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment, it would automatically be reinstated for beef only. 

“Americans should know exactly where their beef is coming from, but current USDA labeling practices allow big meatpacking companies to falsely label imported beef as being a product of the USA,” said Booker. “I’m proud to join colleagues in this bipartisan legislation that will restore mandatory country of origin labelling for all beef products and provide fairness for our family farmers and ranchers.” 

“Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers,” said Thune. “Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a ‘product of the USA’ label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that.

“South Dakota cattle producers work tirelessly to produce some of the highest quality beef in the world. The pandemic has only highlighted their important role in our domestic food supply and the urgent need to strengthen it. To ensure the viability of cattle ranching in this country, the system in which producers operate must be fair and transparent. As a long-time supporter of MCOOL, I am proud to introduce this legislation, which will move us one step closer to making that a reality.”

“Montana ranchers raise the best cattle in the world, and it’s time American families are guaranteed the right to know whether their beef is from Broadus or Brazil,” said Tester. “This bipartisan legislation will make sure consumers know when they’re buying American beef at the supermarket, and it will defend Montana’s family farmers and ranchers by leveling the playing field.” 

“It’s time to restore Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) once and for all,” said Rounds. “This is an important step in restoring market integrity for consumers and cattle producers. For too long, the packers have skewed this market in their favor. Now, we take it back. I’m thankful to my colleagues for helping carry this important issue for consumers and cattle producers. I’ve long said that consumers will need to drive and help carry this policy debate. For those of us who support MCOOL for beef, this is just the start. The nine major cattle producing states won’t get this done alone. We need a national campaign to see this over the finish line.”

“For our food system to be truly competitive, Congress has to stop big meatpackers’ deception and protect honest producers and consumers,” said Joe Maxwell, President of Family Farm Action Alliance. “Family Farm Action Alliance commends Senator Booker for his unwavering leadership on pushing for Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef. We thank him and the other Senators for introducing this bill, which levels the playing field and gives independent farmers and ranchers a fighting chance at a fair market.”

“Both consumers and the nation’s cattle producers are being exploited because consumers don’t know where their beef comes from and cattle producers can’t encourage consumers to purchase beef produced exclusively from their USA cattle,” said Bill Bullard, Chief Executive Officer of R-CALF USA. “Senator Booker has long recognized this deficiency and has now cosponsored a bill to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling for beef. On behalf of America’s independent cattle producers, R-CALF USA applauds Senator Booker for his leadership in supporting this important legislation.”