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Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack Photo: USDA Creative Commons License 

USDA will try again to tighten made-in-America labeling rules for meat.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said July 1 that he will continue the Trump administration’s process of developing a country of origin labeling rule.

The push will include a “top-to-bottom review” of the existing rules and what the terminology means to consumers.

“I am committed to ensuring that the Product of USA label reflects what a plain understanding of those terms means to U.S. consumers,” Vilsack said.

Meat is allowed to be labeled as “Product of USA” as long as it is processed in the United States. That means imported meat can receive the label if it passes through a USDA-inspected plant.

Livestock groups say this standard misleads consumers and undercuts U.S. farmers, and they have been clamoring for stricter rules since the last attempt at reform was hastily repealed in 2015.

Canada had challenged those rules before the World Trade Organization and received permission to heap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

During his confirmation hearing in February, Vilsack said that he was open to revisiting country of origin labeling.

But after years of defeat on that front as Barack Obama’s ag secretary, he seemed skeptical that the rules could be designed in a way that would avoid sanctions.

“I’m frank to say I need help in that respect,” he said.

Vilsack sounded more confident this month when he announced the country of origin rulemaking proposed last year would continue.

His statement coincided with the Federal Trade Commission’s announcement that it too would crack down on Made in USA claims.

The FTC’s plan, also set in motion last year, would allow products to be labeled as “Made in USA” only if nearly all of their components are made and sourced in the United States, and if all significant processing and final assembly are done in America.

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