South Dakota ranchers, politicians applaud new ‘Product of USA’ labeling rule

March 13, 2024

Joshua Haiar (SD Searchlight)

South Dakota politicians and representatives of the cattle industry are applauding a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule aimed at ensuring the voluntary “Product of USA” label means what it says.

The rule mandates that only meat, poultry and egg products derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States can bear the “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” labels.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the rule will protect consumers and foster a fair marketplace.

“This final rule will ensure that when consumers see ‘Product of USA’ they can trust the authenticity of that label and know that every step involved, from birth to processing, was done here in America,” he said Monday in a press release.

Warren Symens, president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said the prior rule allowed the voluntary label to be used on beef that was repackaged in the U.S., no matter where it originated.

“We have long held the position that this was a violation of the consumer’s trust, and that the ‘Product of the USA’ label needs to have the truth and integrity behind it that consumers expect from our nation’s beef producers,” Symens said in a news release.

The labeling update is different from mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, which was enacted and later revoked in 2015 after threats of tariffs from the World Trade Organization. Bipartisan efforts exist to reinstate the rule for beef.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, of South Dakota (pictured), applauded the USDA’s new rule on voluntary labels. He previously introduced legislation, sent a letter to the USDA, met with Vilsack, hosted a roundtable discussion and took other actions to push for the rule.

“Integrity has been restored to the ‘Product of the USA’ label,” Rounds said in a news release.

He also called for further actions to restore Country of Origin Labeling and address the anti-competitive effects of consolidation in the meatpacking industry.

Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson, both South Dakota Republicans, took to social media to celebrate the rule change.

“Glad to see that [the USDA] finalized a rule to address the Product of the USA labeling loophole,” Thune wrote. “An important step to ensure only products from animals that are born, raised, & harvested in the U.S. can have this label — creating transparency that benefits both producers & consumers.”

Johnson wrote, “‘Product of the USA’ should mean it’s American beef from ranch to table. I’m glad USDA’s rule closes a loophole and meets producer and consumer expectations.”

The South Dakota Farmers Union, the United States Cattlemen’s Association. R-CALF USA, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association all contributed statements to Rounds’ news release supporting the rule change.