Update- R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard Responds to Our Monday Beef Buzz Regarding His Call for Mandatory COOLFri, 19 Jul 2019 12:37:38 CDT
After this edition of the Beef Buzz was aired on our statewide radio network and heard via this website- Bill Bullard reached out to us and expressed concern about our adding details about what we had oberved at a Walmart Super Center in the Oklahoma City area. After trading emails with him over the course of the day- we posted the following comments in our Daily Email the next morning. We want to share with you those comments here as an addendum to this Beef Buzz report.
"On Monday- we featured comments from the CEO of R-Calf USA, Bill Bullard, from an interview we did with him between meetings that he was speaking at in Oklahoma with cattlemen- the meetings put on by the OISA.
"I had forgotten the level of passion that we dealt with for years about the COOL issue- and it has resurfaced again during the USMCA ratification discussion- at least the old proponents of COOL have brought it back up and have gotten several Democratic members of Congress that were mostly not around during the last go round of Yes to COOL and then No to COOL to call upon the Trump Administration to go back, reopen USMCA and insert COOL language.
"The proponents of COOL got their day in the sun from 2012 to 2015 when mandatory COOL was put into place- this during the Obama years and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.
"The government involvement in this labeling meant that packers either decided to not accept and kill cattle that may have come from either Canada or Mexico- or they set aside a separate time (day or part of a day's kill) to process only those animals that may either be coming directly from one of the two countries or from feeder cattle that came from Mexico or Canada and then were finished in an USA feedlot.
"There were studies that showed little interest by the majority of consumers and one that Dr. Glynn Tonsor of K-State was a part of (as well as Dr. Jayson Lusk of OSU) concluded that "there was no change in demand following implementation of MCOOL." The authors concluded the cattle industry was suffering economic loss because of mCOOL.
"Bullard, after listening to our report that he was featured in on Monday- took exception to my comments about going to a Walmart Super Center and observing what information is currently in the meat case for consumers that want to examine the package closely enough. He has little regard to the "Product of the USA" label saying it only means it is harvested or processed in the US- but could include beef from animals that started their lives in one of the countries here in North America.
"We traded multiple emails- Bullard cited one of the Ad Hoc questions from the Jayson Lusk FooDS Survey that was conducted monthly out of the Ag Econ Department at OSU- pointing to that as showing value for the label and that consumers would pay more for US only beef as opposed to something coming from Canada.
"He also offered these comments- which I asked if I might share with you this morning-
"I listened to your story this morning. Your "Product of the USA" Choice cut you viewed at Walmart is quite possibly derived from cattle born and raised in Canada or Mexico and simply slaughtered and/or processed in a United States packing/processing plant. It does not denote the country of origin as mandatory COOL did from May 2013 through Dec. 2015, and would do if it were reinstated. It only denotes where the meat was processed. Thus, it does not differentiate products exclusively produced by American farmers and ranchers.
"The grass-fed Jones Creek Beef is another matter. That label is likely approved by the USDA and the beef is most likely an exclusive USA-origin product. That is very good from our perspective. But, it supports our contention that only if the actual beef purveyor (packer/retailer) wants to label beef as to origin will the beef be so labeled. In this case, the Jones Creek Beef company wants the label. I don't know the volume of beef produced by this company, or other similar companies, but I know it is but a small percentage of the beef produced in the U.S."
"Bullard concludes by saying "Your rebuttal used to marginalize my comments ("In reality") consisted of information that a reporter should have known before the interview, and should have asked during the interview before using it in an attempt to discredit the interviewee."
"The argument over COOL boils down to those that want the Government to dictate what a label can say and then have the industry change their practices to conform(that was mCOOL) and then there are those who want the marketplace drive what is on a label- harvesting value from consumers based on what they want to know and will actually pay to know.
"One more note- Beef sellers who are focused on giving the consumer what they seem to want is what I saw in the other supermarket that is close by in the OKC metro- Crest Supermarket. They feature Certified Angus Beef and they are spotlighting the Angus brand and a guarantee that the product will taste and eat great- as John Huston told me years ago- we gotta deliver a great eating experience every time. (and I saw no country of origin on the packaging at Crest.)"
Now, here is the original Beef Buzz as posted on Monday of this week:
Chief Executive Officer of the populist cattle group R-CALF USA, Bill Bullard, was in Oklahoma this past week. During his visit, Bullard spoke to a couple of meetings in the state organized by the Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association. One of the messages he had for cattle producers at his presentations is that American producers need Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) to return as part of the new US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. He shared his perspective on this issue with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays in an interview recorded during his visit.
“We were elated when the Trump Administration first announced we were going to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement recognizing that the United States was being harmed by that agreement. We were very disappointed when the proposal came out that did absolutely nothing to change any of the provisions affecting the trade of cattle and beef,” Bullard said. “We were hoping the Trump Administration would part or take some of the provisions that they’ve used now for the textile industry and auto industry and recognize the importance of making things in America. We thought they would apply that to beef, but they didn’t.”
Bullard explained his reasoning for why COOL should be made mandatory as it once was in the past, though ultimately removed after the policy’s unintended repercussions were realized. Bullard remarked that the industry’s ability to differentiate its product from the cheaper product of Canadian and Mexican competitors in the marketplace is essential to maintaining competitive profit margins. He explained that without COOL, packers are able to source cheaper product from competing nations and distribute it as a “Product of the USA,” and in essence deflating the value of domestically produced beef.
“So, we’re opposing the agreement right now. In fact, we’re asking members of Congress to hold off their support contingent upon the restoration of (COOL) for beef and pork in the USMCA,” he said. “Our position is that agreement should not be approved unless we first restore (COOL) so cattle producers can compete against the growing tide of undifferentiated and cheaper product that’s coming into the US from Canada and Mexico and undercutting US cattle prices.”
It is important to note that voluntary (COOL) information is available to consumers right now. While not mandatory, consumers can easily locate where specific items found in their local grocery store were produced by simply looking on the package. Hays confirmed that fact with a quick visit to the meat counter at his own local grocery store. You can hear Hays discuss what he discovered at his trip to the store and listen to his visit with Bill Bullard, on today’s Beef Buzz.
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.
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