Senator John Thune addresses a crowd at a the Wessington Springs Senior Citizen Center, Wessington Springs, SD.

As confidence in a major fall blizzard builds, so do the emotions and enthusiasm of beef producers across the nation.  While some ranchers scramble to prepare themselves for winter-like weather at only the start of fall, others take the role of taking a stand.
Concerned community members and South Dakotans as well as ag industry enthusiasts gathered to discuss hot topics surrounding our state and economy with Senator John Thune, who visited Wessington Springs on Tuesday, October 15.  The Senior Citizen Center was brim full and abuzz of topics surrounding everything from student debt, the rising cost of prescription meds, and robo calls.  However one subject in particular seemed to be the center of conversation – the ag industry and market climate of beef in particular. 
Points discussed were the USDA’s investigation on the Kansas Tyson plant fire and its impact on cattle prices and the Trade Bill, which is still under inspection with the US House of Representatives, as well as the re-instatement of a country of origin labeling program.
The local cattle producers are in agreement that one of the simplest ways to gain back fair markets would be to reinstate some form of beef labeling such as Country of Origin Labeling (C.O.O.L.). According to a petition submitted to the U.S.  Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) by the Organization for Competitive Markets and the American Grassfed Association, not all meat labeled “Product of U.S.A.” is actually from animals raised within U.S. borders.  Beef and pork are the only two products sold in the United States that are not labeled with country of origin. As of now, Brazilian companies own two of the four major packers. These companies then import foreign beef to the United States un-package it, have it USDA inspected and labeled, and repackaged.
Despite the beef industry outlook appearing dim, a group of local cattlemen and women look to light a fire, starting at the grass roots level and hoping it will spread across the nation.
“There is a group of local individuals concerned about the current state of the beef industry and we are joining forces to try to save it,” explains Christina Christensen, local rancher and co-owner of Kimball Livestock Exchange, Kimball, SD. “We want to raise awareness of the problem at hand and do what we can at a grass roots level. We strongly believe that if we lose our farms/ranches, we will lose small-town families, lose our schools, lose our businesses, and lose communities. This will certainly have a trickle down effect that will devastate rural America.”