Our organization has consistently had a policy that supports an industry-led program that identifies USA beef. We take great pride in Montana Beef and U.S. beef as it is the best in the world.
Yesterday, Senate Bill 206 was heard in the Senate Agriculture, this bill brought by Senator Olszewski aims to force retailers to display placarding identifying the source of processing of meat in Montana. While the idea of this bill is a good one, the execution isn’t realistic. Not only is the placarding an almost impossible feat due to retailers not having the necessary processing and origin information, but the legality of the bill is questionable.
The legal review raises concerns over the Supremacy Clause under the US Constitution. The legislation is in violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 that extensively regulates the labeling of meat products.
We want to find a solution for the labeling issue but we will need to start at the national level if we are going to be successful. By passing Senate Bill 206, we would be in direct violation of federal law which would cost the state thousands of dollars in court and legal fees.
If we want to increase beef sales, we need to involve the retailers into the development of any legislation. SB 206 would impose heavy penalties on retailers that were unable to comply including heavy fines and even jail time. As previously mentioned, retailers aren’t provided with the origin of meat products so it would be difficult for them to comply.
Another issue with the bill is that the extensive rulemaking it would require would be done by the Department of Labor, rather than the Department of Livestock. The Department of Labor doesn’t have experience with meat inspections, we find it inappropriate for them to write rules on a subject matter that they have no experience with. The rulemaking would be better suited for the Department of Livestock that already handles meat inspections in the state.
This piece of legislation will be difficult and costly to enforce. The fiscal note for the biennium will total over $500,000 and would require the hiring of two full-time employees at the Department of Labor.
There is one section of SB 206 that we would like to see move forward. We do support the definitions of the “cell cultured products” on page 4. We think it is well defined and support the bill carried by Representative Redfield’s “real meat act” that includes similar language defining “cell cultured products”.
We want to move towards an industry-led labeling program but SB 206 isn’t the mechanism to accomplish a new COOL; in this case, a good idea did not result in a well-written bill. MSGA will continue to work at the national level to implement an industry-led program that works for Montana producers.
Have questions? Please contact the MSGA office.