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AMI Advocates Voluntary U.S. Beef Certification Program

Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Washington, DC – Mandatory country-of-origin labeling legislation such as H.R. 1144 would create untenable barriers to imported meats, damage the industry’s ability to export U.S. meats and mandate significant new costs throughout the industry, according to the American Meat Institute’s Senior Vice President of Legislative and Public Affairs Sara Lilygren.

In testimony before the House Agriculture on Livestock and Horticulture, Lilygren argued that a voluntary U.S. beef certification program would provide country-of-origin labeled meat in the marketplace without creating “an expensive, administratively burdensome, protectionist mandate” imposed by mandatory labeling legislation like H.R. 1144, the “Country –of-Origin Meat Labeling Act of 1999.”

While noting that AMI shares the goal of those who seek to promote U.S. products, Lilygren pointed to the extraordinary costs in implementing a mandatory country-of-origin labeling program. According to AMI and General Accounting Office (GAO) cost estimates, a mandatory program would cost a staggering $1 billion per year to implement, including: more than $300 million per year to packers for mandatory livestock and meat segregation at all slaughter plants, nearly $375 million per year to retailers for product segregation at retail markets and $60 million a year to USDA for federal oversight.

Lilygren also cited a recent GAO analysis which found that that additional costs to producers, processors and retailers would certainly be passed along to consumers.

A voluntary U.S. beef certification program, according to Lilygren, would avoid the staggering industry costs and trade barriers associated with mandatory labeling programs while providing country-of-origin labeled meat in the marketplace.

Lilygren outlined a new, voluntary, U.S. beef certification program which AMI, National Meat Association, Food Marketing Institute, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association petitioned USDA for just two weeks ago. The program would be administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service and would be available to anyone in the beef packing business for a fee. Significantly, the livestock used for this voluntary program will be subject to an animal identification program to ensure that they, too, meet the standards to be certified U.S. beef under the terms of the program.

Lilygren argued that consumer demand should ultimately decide whether country-of-origin labeling programs are necessary.

“If there is a market for this product, our beef packers will now be able to fulfill consumer demand,” Lilygren said. “If there is little or no demand for this product, then we will not have saddled the entire cattle, beef, retail and foodservice industries with costly mandates that have no relevance to consumers.”

The complete text of Lilygren’s testimony is available on AMI’s web site at www.meatinstitute.org.

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.

For more information contact:
Janet Riley
Vice President, Public Affairs

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