A broad-based livestock competition coalition has met with officials from USDA, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. According to R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, Secretary Vilsack's staff is reviewing USDA rules that were proposed but not finalized, and finalized but not put into effect by the Bush Administration.
"We learned that USDA is working to identify what rules are necessary to implement the 2008 Farm Bill provisions," Bullard said. "We understand that USDA currently is operating with a very thin staff, though it hopes to begin filling vacant positions as quickly as possible."
The coalition asked USDA to close the loophole that allows the mislabeling of USA beef, to prohibit the use of a country's name on ground beef when the processor stops sourcing meat from the country, to reduce the list of products excluded from labeling due to minor processing, as well as to prohibit a mixed-origin sign over a full service meat counter when products from more than one country are offered for sale.
R-CALF also wants USDA to make it the packers' responsibility to visually inspect live cattle for evidence of import markings, thus eliminating the need for producers to pass affidavits on to the packer. Bullard said a positive note is that USDA said it is committed to being more engaged with active enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.