Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Brazilian Fresh Beef Shipments Began Arriving In The U.S. Last Week. So What's Up With Country Of Origin Labeling, SD Congressional Delegation?

     Good news for Brazil.  The country just offloaded its first cargo of fresh beef at the Port of Philadelphia, 3,000 tons of it, soon to be followed by similar shipments during the next several
Brazilian Beef Offloaded
In Philly Last Week
months.  Bad news for South Dakota cattle producers.  That's beef that will push aside the product they'll be marketing during the same period.  Even worse news for the U.S. trade deficit.  The Brazilian deal will only add to the $1 billion/year difference between beef we export ($5.2 billion/year) and the beef we import ($6.2 billion/year).  In a piece titled "Trade Deals Keep Getting Worse", the National Cattlemen's Beef Association journal "Beef" piles it on, complaining not only about the deal itself but adding some cautionary language about safety issues as well.

     In the meantime this is happening against the backdrop of one of the worst price selloffs in the history of the U.S. cattle market.  Slaughter-ready cattle that were fetching $1.70/lb liveweight just two years ago are now trading at a bit over a dollar.  This is catastrophic, and the news that our imports of beef just grew substantially only makes the situation tougher to accept.  Meantime, our South Dakota congressional delegation (Thune, Rounds, Noem, Republicans all) don't seem to have much to say about the matter.
     I just googled all 3 of their names with the words "beef imports" and came up with one solitary link:  it reported that they all stood idly by last winter and let Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) die on the vine.  It happened during a budget negotiation in Congress when repeal of COOL was slipped into the final bill, no fanfare, no eulogy, no nothing affixed to the closure.  The repeal was needed to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling that found COOL to be an illegal protective trade barrier, so out it went.  
     Meanwhile, South Dakota cattle ranchers have to cope with awful prices and no explanation as to how one of their principal marketing advantages is no longer around to help
Who Wants To Know?
We All Want To Know
That doesn't even take into consideration that 90% of American consumers  favor labeling food products with their countries of origin. In general I favor free (and obviously fair) trade, but I don't get how free trade should deny me the chance to find out where my cut of beef came from before I buy it.  I'm willing to wager that just about everybody in this country feels the same way.

     As decisions like these are resolved at the federal level, you have to hope that somebody, anybody, who represents South Dakota in the United States Congress will speak up about this.  My many friends in the cattle industry and my family as consumers are stakeholders.  We want these labels and we want to know why we can't have them.  


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