WASHINGTON — US Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) continues to seek support for a nationwide effort to include mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) in the 2024 farm bill.

Last week, he asked Senate colleagues to join his letter for the Senate Agriculture Committee that would add MCOOL to the legislation’s framework. The farm bill expired in fall 2023, but Congress passed a one-year extension, making the new deadline Sept. 30, 2024.

“It is past time to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling for beef,” Rounds said. “US farmers and ranchers work hard to produce high-quality products for their fellow Americans. They deserve to have their beef differentiated from foreign-made products. Consumers want to be able to purchase beef born, raised and processed in the United States without wondering if it’s secretly coming from a foreign country. I encourage my colleagues to join me in the fight to get MCOOL included in our next farm bill.”

According to Rounds’ letter, MCOOL provisions were originally implemented during the 2002 farm bill but were repealed in 2015 after Canada and Mexico filed disputes with the World Trade Organization.

“Since the repeal of MCOOL, American cattle producers have experienced significant market fluctuations. Concurrently, the largest meat packers have realized immense profits through the use of forward contracting and formula-based sales,” he said in his letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee. “While cattle prices are currently on the rise, it is evident producers will again encounter market disruptions. As farmers and ranchers deal with a volatile market, it is imperative the federal government work to provide a level playing field.”

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), continues to push for more action from Congress and showed support for Rounds’ proposal.

“All Congress needs to do is reinstate MCOOL for beef, so like your chicken, lamb, fish and shellfish, and fruits and vegetables, beef would also bear a label informing consumers as to where the animal had been born, raised and slaughtered,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA in a weekly update. “But Congress has so far refused to act. It seems Congress can’t decide if its loyalties are to the American people or to the unelected and unappointed international tribunal known as the World Trade Organization.”

In March 2024, the USDA finalized a rule for voluntary “Product of USA” label claims for meat, poultry and eggs that only derive from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. Those voluntary claims are scheduled to be available by Jan. 1, 2026.