Proposed legislation to limit use of ‘Product of USA’ label

By Erica Shaffer

WASHINGTON – US Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are backing a law that would limit the “Product of USA” label to beef sourced from cattle that are born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. 

The bill is a direct response to current labeling rules that allow the label on meat products produced abroad and later imported to the United States as long as the product has been minimally processed or repackaged in a US Department of Agriculture-inspected facility.

“It’s pretty simple — only beef born, raised and slaughtered in the United States should receive the ‘Product of USA’ label,” Rounds said. “As I continue to work with my colleagues on re-establishing mandatory country of origin labeling, we must fix the current labels to protect consumers and producers. 

“For far too long, South Dakota producers have suffered as their high-quality, American-raised beef has lost value as it’s mixed with foreign beef, raised and processed under different standards,” he said. “This is wrong. Consumers deserve to know where their beef comes from and accurate, transparent labeling supports American farmers and ranchers. It’s long past time we fix this once and for all.”

Product labeling recently has come under heightened scrutiny. In June, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association petitioned US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to eliminate the “Product of the USA” label in favor of descriptive generic claims such as ‘Processed in the USA.’

The Federal Trade Commission finalized a new rule that bans marketers from making unqualified Made in USA claims on labels and requiring marketers to prove that their products are “all or virtually all” made in the United States. Following that announcement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a review of “Product of USA” labels for meat.

“I congratulate the FTC on strengthening this important protection for American consumers,” Vilsack said. “USDA will complement the FTC’s efforts with our own initiative on labeling for products regulated by FSIS, an area of consumer labeling where USDA has a long tradition of protecting consumers from false and misleading labels.”

The USA Beef Act is co-sponsored by Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Thune (R-SD), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.). Representative Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) is introducing companion legislation in the US House of Representatives.

“South Dakota cattle ranchers work hard to produce some of the highest quality beef in the world, and they deserve to proudly showcase their products with accurate labeling,” Thune said. “I’m proud of this straightforward legislation that will ensure that consumers know they are getting their beef from cattle that were born right here in the USA.”