COOL: R-CALF, NFU Seek FTC Assistance

Wyoming ranch cattle ( Hall & Hall )

R-CALF USA has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to correct “substantive conflicts” it sees between existing federal law and USDA’s “past, present and future meat labeling schemes.” 

Separately, the National Farmers Union also called on the FTC to "swiftly finalize" the recent proposed rule that would strengthen voluntary U.S. origin claims on labels and penalize those who incorrectly label products. NFU President Rob Larew urged the FTC to adopt the proposed rule and "vigorously enforce it.”

In a statement released Tuesday evening, R-CALF alleges USDA has been violating the Tariff Act of 1930 which requires imported beef to retain its foreign country of origin label throughout the marketing channels unless the product is subjected to substantial transformation. Current USDA regulations only requires minimal processing for the foreign label to be removed from the product.

R-CALF also alleges that USDA’s meat labeling policy is in “direct conflict” with the mandatory country of origin labeling (mCOOL) law that applys to lamb, chicken and other commodities. In comments submitted to the FTC, R-CALF said that “while USDA’s policy allows foreign lamb to bear a USA label when it too is subjected to only minimal processing, the mCOOL law expressly states that lamb cannot bear a United States designation unless it is from an animal that is exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States.”

R-CALF’s comments claim USDA’s policies favor the beef industry’s larger players, including the large beef packing companies. R-CALF claims such policies help those large entities in “deceptively labeling their foreign products” such that it causes harm to American cattlemen. The group claims USDA “is catering to only a handful of multinational beef packers” and a minority of cattlemen who purchase imported cattle.

In the statement, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said American ranchers have received no help from Congress or the USDA in correcting USDA’s deceptive beef labeling regime. “We’re hopeful that the independent Federal Trade Commission can step in and help America’s independent ranchers.”