Monday, September 16, 2019

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House backs country of origin labeling


PIERRE, SD — In farm country, a bill that endorses country of origin labeling on meat products would seem like a slam dunk. That wasn’t exactly the case Tuesday in the S.D. House of Representatives.

House Concurrent Resolution 1007 expressed support for country of origin labeling and asked the U.S. Congress to re-institute the practice.

The measure’s sponsor, Steve Livermont, R-Martin, said several studies have concluded that consumers consider country of origin when making purchasing decisions. He noted Swiss watches, Colombian coffee, German automobiles and American meat.

Livermont, a rancher, said beef sales fell off in 2015 when the World Trade Organization ruled against the practice in the United States.

Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, spoke against the measure, noting that country of origin labeling applied to just 16 percent of pork and 33 percent of beef. It did not apply to meats sold in restaurants, Qualm said.

“It has not done everything that people have said it’s done,” Qualm said of country of origin labeling.

Qualm, a farmer, said he would be in favor of setting up a program that branded beef as coming from South Dakota.

“Then we’ve got something we can really go forward with,” Qualm said.

Speaking in support of the bill, Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, who works with bison, said meat labeled as bison might really be water buffalo.

“It may not be bison from this country,” Bordeaux said.

The concurrent resolution, which does not have the weight of law but works as a way to express the feelings of the Legislature, was endorsed on a vote of 47-22.