USDA Unveils Plan to Meet Export Customers' Requests for Labeled Beef

(Note regarding the USDA and COOL: "I was amazed at USDA's ability to simplify this labeling program using existing industry documentation, records, and segregation practices for export products, especially given USDA's insistence that labeling beef as to its country of origin for the American consumer would be 'excessively costly and burdensome.' It appears the desires of American consumers to know where their beef comes from is taking a back seat to our export customers." Okay, now you know how 'important' American consumers are NOT, to USDA.)

August 18, 2003

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

Contact John Lockie:

406-252-2516 or johnlockie@r-calfusa.com

Billings, Montana - On Monday, August 11, 2003, in Kansas City, MO, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled its plan to satisfy the requests of Japan and the Republic of Korea to delete any beef born, raised, or slaughtered in Canada from United States beef exports sent to their respective countries.

Japan had demanded that the U.S. comply with its request by September 1, 2003.

The USDA hosted the educational and informational meeting for the cattle and beef industries to outline its new Beef Export Program (BEV program).

Representing the U.S. live cattle industry at the meeting was R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), Kansas Cattlemen's Association (KCA), and the Nebraska Cattlemen's Association (NCA).

R-CALF USA representative David Pfrang, said James Riva, Chief of the Audit, Review, and Compliance Branch of the Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, explained the requirements for qualifying for the Beef Export Program:

*All beef and beef products identified as meeting the requirements of the BEV program must be derived from cattle slaughtered in the U.S.

*Only eligible BEV suppliers may produce beef and beef products for the BEV program

*All eligible beef and beef products must be labeled and segregated from all nonconforming products in areas of production.

According to Pfrang, Barry Carpenter, Deputy Administrator, Livestock and Seed Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, responded to questions and said the requirement that all cattle must be slaughtered in the U.S. is sufficient at this time to meet Japan's request because the border has been shut down since May 20 and the majority of Canadian live cattle should already be through the system.

Carpenter went on to explain that once the border was opened to live cattle, the USDA would deal with the situation when it arose.

Pfrang said Carpenter assured the audience that Japan had agreed to this program and that the USDA expected Korea to follow suit within 30 days.

Pfrang then told USDA that R-CALF USA had contacted the embassy of the Republic of Korea and learned that the Republic of Korea was continuing to demand that no beef born, raised, or slaughtered in Canada is to be included in Korean exports. "Mr. Carpenter responded that the USDA is continuing its negotiations," said Pfrang.

Early in the meeting representatives from Tyson/IBP asked if products processed before September 1, 2003, would be eligible for an export permit. "USDA initially said only products produced from cattle slaughtered after September 1 would be eligible."

But later in the meeting Carpenter announced that if packers can verify that products processed prior to September 1 were not from Canadian cattle, then those products could be BEV certified and eligible for an export permit," said Pfrang.

Pfrang said USDA provided the operational details of the BEV program and the auditing procedures USDA would use for ensuring that all suppliers label, segregate, and track all products eligible for the BEV program completely through the system.

"I was amazed at USDA's ability to simplify this labeling program using existing industry documentation, records, and segregation practices for export products, especially given USDA's insistence that labeling beef as to its country of origin for the American consumer would be 'excessively costly and burdensome.' It appears the desires of American consumers to know where their beef comes from is taking a back seat to our export customers," commented Pfrang.

R-CALF USA, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America is a national, nonprofit cattle association representing cattle producers in the areas of trade and marketing. R-CALF USA has 8,700 individual members in 46 states and 50 affiliated local and state cattle and farm organizations.

For more information, visit:

http://www.r-calfusa.com

or call 406-252-2516.