As many rightfully worry about COVID-19 and its affects on a variety of industries, Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) discussed in his weekly media call Thursday a directed focus from his office on the beef industry as cattle prices continue to fall substantially.
Rounds did spend the first few minutes of his press briefing discussing COVID-19 and the current bills being pushed through Congress for funding. He spoke to the bill passed earlier this week that would cover over $100 billion in available funds for addressing the virus directly and also assisting American employers and employees who are impacted by the pandemic.
Rounds spoke to the $1 trillion bill that is debated at the time in the Senate. He believed the bill has issues he’s not happy with, but that overall, it’s a package that should help South Dakotans significantly.
The Senator spent the majority of his time discussing the current cattle market crisis. Senator Rounds expressed that he sent a letter to the Department of Justice to investigate price fixing in the cattle market, and he is urging reinstatement of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL). Rounds also discussed anti-trust violations by meatpackers and the need for investigation from the Department of Justice into this behavior.
“We are seeing record high meat prices at the store, yet our producers are reporting record losses and even filing bankruptcy,” Rounds stated. “Those margins make no sense, and it’s driving cattle producers out of business quickly.”
Rounds spoke of his support for South Dakota Concurrent Resolution 601, which calls for President Trump to renegotiate the recently-signed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to specifically remove language that would create legal issues with MCOOL. This came up in 2015, when Canada and Mexico won a $1 billion sanction against the United States through the World Trade Organization and the U.S. was forced to repeal MCOOL as part of that decision.
Protecting beef producers’ ability to claim U.S. beef is only beef born, raised, and processed in the United States is a very big concern of Rounds and those who support his efforts in protecting the beef industry at this time.
Sen. Rounds concluded his briefing by encouraging all South Dakotans to take all necessary precautions to maintain social distancing and work to flatten the curve.