Testifying before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture, Hammonds proposed the labeling program as an alternative to mandatory country-of-origin labeling legislation currently under consideration in Congress.
“This cooperative labeling and certification program is clearly a far better approach than mandating country-of-origin labels on imports,” Hammonds stated. “That approach would be costly, raise false safety and quality concerns, and undermine U.S. trade policy.”
The proposed label would read as follows:
Beef: Made in the USA
This beef is processed from cattle raised and
fed for at least 100 days in the United States.
Under the proposal, beef producers and processors who want to sell their products with the “Made in the USA” claim will abide by a written certification program administered by USDA. The program would require cattle feeders and beef packers to maintain adequate systems and records, and to make consistent and accurate labels. Packers and cattle producers would be required to reimburse USDA for the cost of the certification program.
FMI testified against a mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef, pork and lamb in April
1999, saying that it would cost the industry and consumers $1.38 billion per year. It could also
trigger trading partners that view labeling as a non-tariff barrier to retaliate by restricting imports of U.S. products. USDA, the Government Accounting Office and others have raised cost and trade concerns in reports on the impact of country-of-origin labeling.
Since then, FMI has held a series of discussions with the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute (AMI), National Cattleman’s Beef Association and National Meat Association to forge a mutually beneficial voluntary labeling policy. Participating parties believe that the new labeling initiative could be a model for the settlement of other issues.
“It was a long but fruitful process that produced a huge step forward for the entire food industry — from the rancher and packer to the grocer and foodservice distributor — and we are pleased with FMI’s role in it,” Hammonds said.