A group of Western lawmakers is taking another run at country-of-origin labeling. You'll recall the 2002 farm bill included a provision establishing country-of-origin labeling on packages of red meat and various other food products.
The labels were to have taken effect in September of 2004. But opponents of the labels, mainly food distributors, used appropriations bills to delay the labels for everything but seafood until 2008. The latest proposal would move the implementation date to September 2006.
The prospective labeling is but one element in the complex business of marketing American beef. Another element is the seasonal movement of cattle in and out of U.S. feedlots ... an activity reflected in this month's cattle-on-feed report from USDA.
Futures trading in advance of Friday afternoon's report was slightly bearish, as most analysts anticipated November inventory numbers coming in above the normal trend lines.
USDA backed that sentiment with a report that showed cattle on feed as of November 1 at 101 percent of a year ago ... cattle placed in October at 103 percent of year-ago levels ... and cattle marketed in October at 97 percent of a year ago.
The numbers were fairly typical of the post-Labor Day trends in the cattle business. But analysts see the marketing and on-feed numbers ... which were above the average pace in those categories ... as an indication of a renewed build-up in feedlot numbers.
In fact, the average November on-feed rate since 1999 is 96 percent, which places the build-up in current inventory numbers well above normal.