|ASI Seeks Support for Export Markets
(May 1, 2012) As I study, read and visit with people regarding the lamb market, I am more confused than ever. I don’t understand how we can go from a near crisis of “not enough lambs” to lambs in the feedlots backed up and getting too heavy in a relatively short period of time. What I do know is that as an industry we should learn from this experience and take a hard look at how to avoid this situation in the future. Perhaps developing more markets will provide better opportunities for the industry to manage through these types of situations. With this thought in mind, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is seeking support for reopening and developing new export markets for our lamb.
The U.S. cattle industry wasn’t the only victim of the 2003 detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States in an imported cow, so too was the U.S. lamb industry. Since that time, the World Organization for Animal Health has recognized the United States as having a controlled risk status for BSE and some markets have reopened to U.S.-origin beef and beef meat products. This is not the case for the U.S. lamb industry; many markets remain closed today even though there are companies interested in exporting our great product.
Adding to the situation, trade negotiations to date have not included these markets for American lamb. The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are ramping up in 2012 so ASI decided the timing was right to take a position on the agreement and seek a positive for American lamb. Focusing on the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance which addresses trade agreements, in April, ASI shared a formal position of the sheep industry with Chairman Max Baucus of Montana and Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Mike Enzi of Wyoming.
ASI believes the United States should open at least one significant export market for American lamb prior to any discussion of lamb imports to America under the proposal.
There is interest in exporting to Japan, China, Taiwan, Russia and the European Union. In addition, the Taiwanese importers have expressed an interest in importing lamb meat from the United States and as for Japan, it was a high value market that American lamb was exported to prior to the closing.
ASI strongly believes that expanding its sheep producers’ and lamb companies’ ability to market beyond North America would be an appropriate policy of the U.S. government.
TPP countries include New Zealand and Australia. According to ASI, there is no economically significant benefit to American, New Zealand or Australian sheep industries to discuss lamb meat trade to or from the United States. Addressing lamb meat into the United States would serve politics only for some participants as exampled by the rhetoric after the U.S./Australian Free Trade Agreement was signed several years ago.
It is long overdue to secure export market access for American lamb. Since this opportunity does not exist in the TPP as it stands today, it is our suggestion that the United States open at least once significant export market for American lamb prior to any discussion of lamb imports to the United States under TPP.