The Rural Lobbyist: SDFU Members Show Up and Make an Impact As COOL Passes Out of Committee.

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Rural Lobbyist WEB Banner FINAL Country of Origin Labeling passed the first of four hurdles Wednesday when Senate Bill 135 passed out of the Senate State Affairs committee by a vote of 5-3. As you recall, the bill was the centerpiece of a call to action sent out by SDFU last week; you can find more information on that call here. SDFU would like to thank those who answered that call to action. In today's world it is easy to comment, complain, and criticize behind the veil of social media or in the local watering hole. However, change is made by those who show up and help solve the problem. That is exactly what a number of SDFU members did by contacting their legislators and by attending and testifying at the committee hearing. This list of proponents was strong with nine total testifiers, including multiple SDFU members. Our presence was certainly felt in the committee as board member Joel Keierleber and rancher David Reis testified in support of SB 135. A number of testifiers, including SDFU members Keierleber and Reis, did an excellent job explaining the affect country of origin labeling has had on cattle prices in South Dakota. The bill sponsor, Senator Ryan Maher, had sales receipts dating back throughout the implementation of COOL to reinforce those claims. In my testimony I explained the delicate relationship between the rancher and the consumer. Neither exists without the other. The fact is that over 90% of consumers want to know where the beef comes from and ranchers overwhelmingly want to tell them. Silvia Christen with SD Stockgrowers also provided strong testimony and rebuttal highlighting the functions of the bill and the impact it has on trade policy. The opponents of SB 135 included: SD Farmer Bureau, SD Pork Producers, SD Cattlemen's, SD Retailers Association, and the SD Chamber of Commerce. The Department of Agriculture also testified in opposition of SB 135 even though it was identified in questioning that they had no real connection or jurisdiction over the labeling program. The opponents made the usual claims against the popular labeling law. One opponent even tried to argue that COOL "failed miserably" at the national level. This statement was almost laughable as COOL has been heavily supported since its inception in 2002. In fact it was passed by Congress, signed by the President, repeatedly defended in domestic court and the WTO, and even when retaliation was threatened there was still resistance in repealing the incredibly popular labeling law. Fortunately, the committee was swayed, not by the opponents, but by the proponents as the bill passed out of committee by a vote of 5-3. Senators Maher, Sutton, Heinert, Ewing, and Langer voted in support and Senators Netherton, Bolin, and Curd in opposition. It is worth noting that two amendments were attached to SB 135. The first amendment replaced to word label with placard. The second reduced the penalty to misrepresenting/not labeling beef products from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a petty offense. To listen to the committee hearing for SB 135 (including SDFU testimony), click the link below (SB 135 begins at the : http://sdpb.sd.gov/SDPBPodcast/2017/sst23.mp3 For more information on SB 135, click the link below: http://sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/Bill.aspx?Bill=135&Session=2017    

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