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Protect American Lamb Seeks Import Relief

BILLINGS, Mont., August 3, 2023 – Today, Protect American Lamb, a project under the auspices of the R-CALF USA Sheep Committee, with members from nearly 15 states, petitioned United States Trade Ambassador Katherine Tai for relief from lamb and mutton imports which the group says has decimated the United States commercial sheep industry.

The 33-page petition describes the importance of the U.S. sheep industry to America’s rural communities, environment, and economy. The petition cites, for example, how sheep are both natural weed exterminators and fire suppressors. By way of numerous charts, the petition shows that imported lamb and mutton, primarily from Australia and New Zealand, have increased 2,363% in dollar value and 543% in quantity since the early 90s.

This petition points out that lamb and mutton imports are not subject to the more stringent production standards required of U.S. sheep producers citing points such as the widespread use of compound 1080 for predator control in foreign countries while the chemical has been all but banned in the United States.

According to the petition, American lamb consumption has increased significantly over the past decade but the tide of imports from foreign supply chains has captured all of that increase while domestic production continually declines.

The petition shows that 74% of lamb and mutton consumed in the U.S. now originates from foreign soil, and domestic production has declined 60%.

Replete with numerous testimonials from sheep producers from across the western United States, the petition urges the Administration and Congress to take immediate action to protect the commercial U.S. sheep industry from total extinction and creating an irreversible dependency on foreign supply chains for this American staple.

The specific relief sought in the petition includes a request to Ambassador Tai for a Global Safeguard Investigation and a request that Congress establish a phased-in tariff rate quota (TRQ) system over 10 years. The group states that during the 10-year phase-in period, the TRQ would be used to encourage the growth in production of the U.S. sheep industry to achieve a 50% market share in the United States by year 10.

“We find ourselves at a pivotal crossroads in American agriculture. We are outsourcing the production of our food to other countries. I don’t know about you, but I cannot think of anything more dangerous than becoming dependent on another nation to feed Americans,” said Carson Jorgensen, a 6th generation American sheep rancher. “The sheep industry is simply the canary in the coal mine. If we do not act now, not only will we lose the American sheep industry, but we will have opened the door to the ultimate decimation of American agriculture by way of imported food.”

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said that the U.S. sheep industry has been effectively outsourced due to unrestrained imports and only if the Administration and Congress act quickly to slow the import onslaught can the American sheep industry be saved.

“America’s sheep industry is already past the breaking point and only with government intervention can we expect to reclaim for America a reliable and everlasting domestic source of protein-rich lamb, which makes this a matter of national food security,” said Bullard.

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