Beef Buzz News
NCBA's Ethan Lane Explains NCBA's Game Plan to Engage USDA on Product of USA LabelsWed, 04 Dec 2019 10:30:55
Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Ethan Lane, says that a special taskforce of cattlemen as well as NCBA staff have been studying the product of USA labeling issue for several months now, and they are ready to move forward, engaging the USDA to find solutions that will work for their producers.
Lane says its an issue they have heard more and more about, "We've had some state affiliates that had this come up during their summer meetings and it does center around the use of 'Product of the United States' and similar labels on beef that goes on our store shelves. Those labels are approved currently through the food safety inspection service (FSIS). What we have been looking into in response to these producers concerns is what the scope of use is, what the approval process looks like, what do the benchmarks look like in order to be able to use a label like that, and is this an area we need to get into to ensure we are protecting our producers from this label being applied in a way that is not keeping with what consumers might be looking for or what we want to see in labeling this product."
Lane goes onto say that cattle producers have met several times on the issue, and they are ready to engage FSIS about these labels that say 'Product of the USA' that may or may not be actual products of the USA, "There's a lot of ambiguity in this space. We don't think anybody is doing anything wrong. We don't think anybody is violating the law or violating regulations. That's an important place to start this conversation. This isn't about pointing the finger at anybody. This is about a system that has probably gotten to the point where we need to get involved and work through that whole value chain to provide some clarity to ensure that we don't have labels that are being used in a way that doesn't work for our producer."
Lane says that NCBA believes that FSIS does not have the structure to be able to verify some of the claims that they are blessing at this time. Their working group believes the solution may be to go to a voluntary regulatory process that is already in place at the Ag Marketing Service (AMS) because at the end of the day, this is a marketing claim, "So our focus is going to be on whether there's some action that can be taken there to ensure that no such label can be used without going through an audited, verified process. Where that process exists currently is at the Ag Marketing Service, through their process verified program. Those programs already exist. We have producers throughout the country that have already used those types of programs, and they have a real benefit in that AMS has a structure in place that can verify. That the claims that are being made are, in fact, representative of what's going on in the package."
Lane points out that the US Cattlemen's Association has petitioned the FSIS to require the wording "Product of the USA" to mean born, raised and processed in the United States. He says that if FSIS should do that without the Ag Marketing Service setting up a PVP that the United States could open itself up to immediate tariffs levied by Mexico and Canada.
He adds that this issue is about much more than just beef- and that the NCBA wants to engage stakeholders from other animal protein groups as well as up and down the value chain to make sure the US gets this right.
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear Ethan Lane in today's Beef Buzz with Ron Hays.
The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.
NOTE- the Picture above is a package of fresh Flank Steak from Tyson that says that it is a "Product of the USA." That claim is on the left hand side of the picture down towards the bottom- any consumer who wants that information is going to have to look very hard- as this is on the back side of the beef package.
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