Commentary by Bill Bullard, CEO, R-CALF USA
Get ready because I’m going to ask for your help today.
You’ll recall that in early August we sent a petition to our nation’s U.S. Trade Ambassador Katherine Tai asking her to direct the U.S. International Trade Commission to initiate an investigation to determine if imported lamb from Australia and New Zealand, and a few other countries, was causing serious injury to the U.S. sheep industry.
We pointed out that the American sheep industry, in just the past few decades, had lost 60% of its commercial sheep operations, 62% of its sheep inventory, and that now, 74% of the lamb consumed in America is grown and raised on foreign soil.
After we filed the petition, we began holding meetings with staff from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, and with dozens of individual Senate and House congressional offices to build support for our petition.
It was during these meetings that we decided to encourage a couple of congressional members to circulate a joint congressional letter among their colleagues so we could demonstrate widespread congressional support for an investigation into the impact that imports were having on American sheep men and women.
Now we’ve been at this for several weeks and the seemingly persistent turmoil Congress seems to find itself in has slowed our progress way down. But this week we had a major breakthrough.
Congressman Blake Moore (R-UT) and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Congresswoman Harriet Hageman (R-WY) are now circulating the much-anticipated joint congressional letter among their colleagues.
I want to read you the joint congressional letter and then I want to ask for your help in getting both your U.S. Senators and your Representative to sign onto the letter. Here’s what the letter says:
Dear Ambassador Tai,
On August 3, 2023, you received a submission from American sheep producers urging you to request that the United States International Trade Commission initiate a safeguard investigation under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. The purpose of the investigation would be to determine if lamb and mutton are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic sheep industry. We urge your favorable consideration of that request.
Based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data, consumption of lamb and mutton in the United States increased by nearly 17 percent from 2018-2022. However, despite this increase in domestic consumption, U.S. sheep and lamb inventory has declined 4 percent since 2018, the continuation of a long-term downward trajectory.
This response by the domestic sheep industry of decreasing production while domestic consumption of lamb and mutton have increased deserves a careful, probing analysis. This is particularly true given the dramatic increase in U.S. market share held by imports since 2012 and the recent 31 percent surge in the volume of imports from 2018 to 2022.
These trends support a prompt and fair investigation by the International Trade Commission of whether the import surge is a substantial cause of serious injury to the United States sheep industry. A request initiated by your office could help ensure the long-term stability and sustainability of this important domestic industry.
We respectfully request your full consideration of this request.
You might say, through the lens of the American sheep industry, that the pendulum has been stuck on the far end of the continuum where our government seemed content to depend on foreign supply chains for our food. “Why produce it here when we can buy it cheaper somewhere else?” is the phrase that best characterizes the pendulum’s longstanding position.
But this sheep industry effort, which will ultimately help the U.S. cattle industry as well, is beginning to dislodge the stuck pendulum, and with your help it will soon rest in a position marked by common sense, responsibility, and a renewed respect for America’s values.
So, here’s the help I’m asking for: We need as many Senators and Representatives as we can possibly get on this letter, and we need both Republicans and Democrats to join. Please call your congressional delegation and say this:
“I want you to join onto the joint letter in support of the U.S. sheep industry that is being circulated by Representatives Moore from Utah and Hageman from Wyoming. Please call one of those offices so you can help preserve our U.S. sheep industry for generations to come.”
The deadline for signing the letter is October 27 and by then we hope to have a hundred or more Senators and Representatives on the letter.
Good luck with your calls and thank you for your help!
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R-CALF USA’s weekly commentary educates and informs both consumers and producers about timely issues important to the U.S. cattle and sheep industries and rural America.
Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) is the largest producer-only trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle and sheep industries. Visit www.r-calfusa.com or call 406-252-2516 for more information.