Labeling and the Marketplace
To maintain both their lock on the marketplace and their unjust share of the retail price of agricultural goods, industrial agriculture interests block transparency in the marketplace. One way they do this is by denying U.S. producers the ability to differentiate their products from those of multi-national industrial agriculture corporations. This not only diminishes U.S. producers’ ability to access the market with their own agricultural goods, but also it prevents the producers from obtaining a fair and just price for their products.
This tactic also flies in the face of consumer demands for transparency in their food system. U.S. consumers, in historic numbers, are demanding to know where their food comes from and where and how it is processed.
Labeling provides consumers with important information for their marketplace choices. It helps guide consumers who want to buy from U.S. family farmers and ranchers rather than industrial multinational corporations that commingle meat products from several foreign countries.
Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling
Consumers were provided transparency when mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) was the law of the land. During the period COOL was in effect in the U.S., consumers were choosing U.S. beef over other options and prices paid to U.S. producers were on the rise. Unfortunately, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other industrial agriculture special interests joined foreign countries with legal claims at the World Trade Organization and pushed Congress to repeal COOL. Beef and pork COOL provisions were abandoned by Congress in 2015.
Pricing research clearly demonstrates that the 2016 fall in the price cattle producers receive for their calves, of almost 50%, can be tied to the abandonment of COOL. U.S. calves are now worth half of what they were prior to COOL being repealed.
Therefore, it is in the best interests of U.S. consumers and U.S. independent farmers and ranchers to demand Country of Origin Labeling be reinstated in the U.S. The Organization for Competitive Markets has been a long-standing and staunch supporter of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling and has the passage of COOL as a top legislative priority.
Voluntary “Product of U.S.A.” Labeling
In June 2018, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and the American Grassfed Association (AGA) filed a petition with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) demanding FSIS policy be changed to ensure only U.S. domestic meat products can be labeled “Product of U.S.A.” In response, FSIS announced it will initiate rulemaking to define the conditions under which the labeling of meat products would be permitted to bear voluntary statements that indicate that the product is of U.S. origin.
The current policy allows imported meat to bear the label “Product of U.S.A.” if it simply passes through a USDA-inspected plant. The lack of clarity in this policy allows food companies to skirt the federal law and regulations governing labeling and leads to violations of FSIS’s own policies and regulations that clearly mandate truthfulness in labeling by prohibiting false or misleading labeling and practices.