I am pleased to sign into law today H.R. 2727, the Meat Import Act of 1979, a measure that will change the procedure we use to regulate imports of beef and veal into the United States.
Under the Meat Import Act of 1964, the Secretary of Agriculture had the authority to limit beef and veal imports. However, because the level of U.S. imports was tied to the level of U.S. production, the limitations were most restrictive when U.S. consumers most needed beef, and least restrictive when our cattle producers were suffering the most from low prices.
The new law makes much more sense. It provides that at least 1.25 billion pounds of imported beef will be available each year. That level increases when domestic production is low and more imports are needed. It better protects consumers against short supplies, and it better protects cattlemen against low prices. I believe it is a balanced measure which will provide needed stability and certainty for both the domestic cattle industry and the American consumer.
This bill has been a long time in development, and it is the result of cooperation and hard work by cattlemen, the Congress, and the administration.
It retains sufficient Presidential discretion in instances where the countercyclical formula does not fully protect the public interest. The bill is considerably less restrictive than last year's unacceptable measure. I especially want to thank Senators Talmadge and Bentsen and Congressmen Ullman, Foley, and Bedell for their diligence in developing this measure with the administration. It is a good and fair bill, and I am pleased to sign it into law.