For many years, your organization has been pushing for mandatory country-of-origin labeling. We strongly believe consumers have the right to know where the products they buy are produced. We also support truth in labeling to disallow claims that mislead the consumer with promises that cannot be sourced, verified or scientifically proven. 

Our success on the country-of-origin labeling front has been limited, due to rules from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and challenges from other countries at the WTO. I do not agree all the time with WTO determinations, but we are required to live with their decisions. 

Your organization has polled consumers on country-of-origin labeling. Consumers have a desire and a willingness to pay a small percentage more for country-of-origin labeling information. Consumers trust U.S. family farms and ranches to provide them with safe, quality products. Labeling creates opportunities for family farmers and ranchers to differentiate their products in the marketplace. 

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced at the recent National Farmers Union convention that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is releasing a proposed rule for “Product of USA” labels. The rule would require animals be born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States in order for meat, poultry and egg products to bear the “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label. 

Under the proposed rule, the “Product of USA” label would continue to be voluntary. It would also remain eligible for generic label approval, meaning it would not need to be pre-approved by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service before it could be used on regulated products, but would require supporting documentation to be on file for agency inspection and personnel to verify. The rulemaking also proposes to allow other voluntary U.S. origin claims that we see on meat, poultry and egg products sold in the marketplace. These claims would need to include a description on the package of all preparation and processing steps that occurred in the United States upon which the claim is made. 

“American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say,” said Vilsack. “These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions. Our action affirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring accurate and truthful product labeling.” 

The increased clarity and transparency provided by this proposed change will help prevent consumer confusion and ensure that consumers understand where their food comes from. This is a great first step. It still falls short of our goals, but we will continue to push for truth in labeling laws. 

— NDFU President Mark Watne