Court documents allege imported beef likely being mislabeled as product of USA
January 17, 2018
BILLINGS, Mont. — In court documents filed Jan. 12, ranch groups R-CALF USA and the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) reinforced their allegation that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is unlawfully helping multinational meatpackers mislabel hundreds of millions of pounds of imported beef as "Products of the USA."
In their lawsuit filed in June against the USDA and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the groups claim the Tariff Act of 1930 requires imported beef to bear a label denoting the foreign country-of-origin of the beef all the way to the consumer, unless the beef undergoes a substantial transformation in the United States.
The secretary disagrees, arguing in his earlier-filed court documents that imported beef is to be deemed and treated as domestic beef so long as the importing country's food safety standards are equivalent to U.S. standards. Consequently, the secretary allows multinational meatpackers to label imported beef as "Products of the USA" even if the imported beef receives only minor processing, such as unwrapping and rewrapping the package.
Evidence submitted by the groups indicate that U.S. cattle producers received higher prices for their cattle when the origins of foreign beef was distinguished in the marketplace. Evidence attached to the Jan. 12 filing supports the groups' contention that proper enforcement of the Tariff Act would require hundreds of millions of pounds of foreign beef that can currently be labeled as "Products of the USA" to bear country-of-origin labels. This, the groups argue, would turn market forces "in favor of true domestic producers."
The filing also claims the secretary's failure to enforce the Tariff Act is flooding the U.S. market with mislabeled foreign beef that decreases the market leverage and income of U.S. cattle producers.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said the secretary's refusal to enforce the Tariff Act's labeling requirements undermines the president's longstanding "Buy American" campaign and the more recent initiative to increase agriculture output that is "Made in America," as advertised in the secretary's recently unveiled rural task force report.
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"It is disingenuous for the administration to say it is encouraging consumers to buy American while it simultaneously directs its legal team to defend the multinational meatpackers' fraudulent practice of putting a USA label on imported beef," Bullard said.
Attorneys representing the ranch groups include lead counsel David Muraskin of Public Justice, Beth E. Terrell and Blythe H. Chandler of Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC, and J. Dudley Butler of Butler Farm & Ranch Law Group, PLLC.