Headlines this week swirl around beef origin legislation, trade and regulating checkoff programs.
Beef origin placards
The Colorado General Assembly’s House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee considered reinstating country of origin information on the beef that Coloradans purchase at retail stores for themselves and their families this past Monday, April 3. It failed to pass out of committee with a close vote of 6 for and 7 against the bill.
Introduced by State Representative Kimmi Lewis and State Senator Vicki Marble, the Beef Country of Origin Retail Placard bill, HB17-1234, would reinstate country of origin information for beef sold in Colorado by requiring a placard be placed next to beef sold in retail stores. The placard must denote “U.S.A. Beef” when the beef is exclusively from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. If the beef is of foreign origin, the placard must state the name of the foreign country or countries from where it originated.
Like in Colorado, bills to reinstate COOL information were filed this year in the South Dakota and Wyoming legislatures, however, those bills were also defeated.
Trade within and outside of U.S. borders is always a hot topic for ag producer groups. President Donald Trump on March 31 made the next move in his bid to reshape U.S. trade policy, signing two executive orders aimed at combating foreign trade abuses that contribute to the U.S.’s half-trillion-dollar trade deficit. Trump’s executive orders initiate a large-scale review of the causes of the U.S.’ trade deficits with some of its largest trading partners and order stricter enforcement of U.S. anti-dumping laws to prevent foreign manufacturers from undercutting domestic companies by selling goods at an unfair price.
The signing comes a week before Trump is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. China, the largest source of the U.S.’s trade deficit, has repeatedly run afoul of the U.S.’ anti-dumping laws, and Trump has repeatedly accused the country of hurting the US economy through unfair trading practices.
Rules for commodity checkoffs
Rules for USDA checkoff programs designed to promote commodities would be altered under a series of bills introduced in the House and Senate March 29.
Prohibiting commodity checkoff groups from contracting with an organization that lobbies on agricultural policy and anti-competitive activity, unfair or deceptive acts, or any act or practice that may be disparaging to another agricultural commodity or product, is the goal of a measure (HR 1753) introduced by Reps. Dina Titus, D., Nev., and Dave Brat, R., Va.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate (S 741) by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, reports DTN. Lee also introduced a bill to make participation in the programs voluntary. Measures in both chambers would also require the USDA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to make audits of checkoff program budgets and expenditures available to the public.
“Checkoff programs are not pots of money for corporations to use to attack their political opponents,” Titus said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that checkoff programs are not picking winners at the expense of the sector of the agriculture community that values animal husbandry.”
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) operates 22 checkoff programs for commodities including pork, eggs and dairy. Producers pay a small fee on each sale, the money going to promote the commodity or pay for research. However, the programs have come under criticism because of their mandatory fees and alleged favoritism toward some businesses.