ASI Weekly – September 6, 2019
What Does Greater Access to Japan Mean for U.S. Lamb
Last week, the Trump Administration announced an agreement in principle to provide greater access to the Japanese market for U.S. goods. While the details of the agreement are not yet available, it’s widely speculated that it will include reductions in the tariffs certain U.S. products face, perhaps even achieving tariffs rates sought under the Trans Pacific Partnership. Currently, U.S. beef faces a 38.5 percent tariff and U.S. pork faces a 4.3 percent tariff when entering Japan. This has many sheep producers asking what this announcement means for the sheep industry.
The bottom line is that this announcement will have little impact on the U.S. sheep industry because our products do not have a duty rate when entering Japan. U.S. lamb, wool and sheepskins all enter Japan duty free. It was just over a year ago that USDA made the announcement that, after a long hiatus, they were able to re-open Japan to U.S. lamb exports and absent a duty, we expect that market to continue to grow.
While there is no direct impact from this latest announcement, the American Sheep Industry Association is hopeful that a rising tide will lift all boats through increased beef and pork exports at a lower tariff rate when the details are formally announced. This also sets the stage to begin negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement with Japan. While that process may take years, ASI will work to ensure U.S. sheep producers maintain current favorable access.
Despite the current trade situation, China also holds tremendous potential for U.S. lamb exports once existing issues are resolved. This week, Senator Daines (R-Mont) visited China and carried with him a letter from the Montana Wool Growers and ASI highlighting the benefits of U.S. lamb. While China has been a top export destination for U.S. wool and sheepskins, the country is currently closed to U.S. lamb. A change in that policy holds the potential to open a vast market for U.S. lamb and variety meat exports.
USDA’s National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee to Meet in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee (NWSAC) will meet on September 18 and 19, 2019 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day at USDA’s headquarters in Washington D.C.
The two-day meeting will focus on operational and research activities conducted by the Wildlife Services (WS) program. The NWSAC will discuss various WS efforts including: how to increase operational and research activities and programs; how to improve their effectiveness; and how to ensure WS remains an active participant in USDA’s goal of agricultural protection.
The meeting will be open to the public but, due to time constraints, the public cannot participate in discussions. Any interested group or individual can file a written statement with the NWSAC before or after the meeting regarding any of the issues discussed. Written statements can also be filed at the meeting. Please refer to Docket No. APHIS-2019-0045 when submitting statements.
The NWSAC, comprised of stakeholders from diverse interests including agriculture and natural resources, advises the Secretary of Agriculture on policies, program issues, and research needed to conduct the WS program. The NWSAC also serves as a public forum, enabling those interested in the WS program to have a voice in the program’s policies. WS is responsible for managing wildlife damage conflicts, preventing wildlife damage to agriculture and natural resources, and providing leadership in resolving human/wildlife conflicts.
New and renewed committee members with a connection to the sheep industry include: Daniel Baxton (Oregon), Joel Dennis (Texas), Burdell Johnson (North Dakota), Dave McEwen (Montana), and Cat Urbigkit (Wyoming).
For further information or to submit written questions after the meeting, contact: Carrie Joyce, Designated Federal Officer, Wildlife Services, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 87, Riverdale, MD 20737; (301) 851-3999.
Solar Grazing Wildlife Survey
The American Solar Grazing Association is conducting a solar grazing wildlife survey. If you currently, used to, or are planning on grazing your flock on a utility scale or community solar farm, they ask that you take a very brief (3 minutes) survey.
The survey will cover a short array of questions including: What are your observations of the interaction of ground mounted solar arrays with local wildlife? What kind of birds live in the array(s) that you are managing? Have you seen predators on-site? How do the installed solar panels influence the local wildlife?
Results will be made available fall 2019. All survey responses will be processed in double blind fashion.
You can find the survey here: https://solargrazing.org/resources/solar-site-wildlife-survey/
Australian Wool Markets Begins to Recover
The Australian wool market has shown signs of recovery after a month of severe losses. Exporters reported that they were making sales close to the current market, finally giving the market a solid level. Sellers have been reluctant to put their wool on the market, pushing the national quantity down to 21,694 bales. This reluctance was highlighted in the Fremantle region, where 29% of the offering was withdrawn prior to sale, reducing the offering to 3,036 bales. This made it the smallest Fremantle sale since AWEX records began (1995). The first day of selling saw further losses, on the back of these falls the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator (EMI) fell by 32 cents. However, in the Fremantle region during the last hour of selling, there was a noticeable change in the room, as fierce competition started to push prices back in a positive direction. This positive buyer sentiment carried on into the Eastern centres on the second selling day, so much so that prices finally started to increase. The individual Micron Price Guides (MPGs) generally rose by 30 to 40 cents, pushing the EMI up by 22 cents. This meant the EMI lost only 10 cents for the series, closing at 1,365 cents.
Lamb industry requires further change, says American Lamb Summit
Outcomes from the inaugural American Lamb Summit were clear: all segments of the industry need to further improve lamb quality to keep and attract new customers and become more efficient to recapture market share from imported lamb. Yet, it was just as clear that production technologies and product research put industry success within grasp.
“I have never been so enthusiastic about our industry’s opportunities, but we just can’t allow ourselves to be complacent or accept status quo,” said Dale Thorne, American Lamb Board chairman, a sheep producer and feeder from Michigan. Thorne stressed, “the end-game is profitability for all aspects of our industry.”
The Summit, sponsored by the American Lamb Board (ALB) and Premier 1 Supplies, brought together 200 sheep producers, feeders and packers from all over the country to Colorado State University (CSU) in Ft. Collins, CO, August 27-28, 2019.
The conference included in-depth, challenging discussions ranging from consumer expectations, business management tools, realistic production practices to improve productivity and American Lamb quality and consistency, to assessing lamb carcasses. Sessions were carefully planned so that attendees would gain tools for immediate implementation.
“We can’t keep saying ‘I’ll think about;’ we have to realize that change is required for industry profitability,” Thorne emphasized.
The Lamb Checkoff Facebook page features summary videos from the sessions and additional resources. The Lamb Resource Center is the hub for all Lamb Summit information, as it becomes available.
Consumers redefine quality
“Consumers are ours to win or lose,” said Michael Uetz, managing principal of Midan Marketing. His extensive research with meat consumers shows that the definition of quality now goes beyond product characteristics, especially for Millennials and Generation Z’s. “It now includes how the animal was raised, what it was fed, or not fed, impact on sustainability and influence on human health,” Uetz said.
“Your power is in your story. You have a great one to tell about American Lamb,” he advised.
Lamb production tools
Increasing flock productivity, using genetic selection, and collecting then using production and financial data were stressed as critical steps for on-farm improvements. “The best way to improve productivity is to increase the number of lambs per ewe,” said Reid Redden, PhD, sheep and goat specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. “Pregnancy testing your ewes should be part of a producer’s routine. Not only can open ewes be culled, but ewes can be segmented for the number of lambs they are carrying for better allocation of feed,” he said.
While genetic selection is now common in beef, pork and both Australian and New Zealand sheep, the American Lamb industry’s slow adoption is hindering flock improvement and giving competition a definite advantage, said Rusty Burgett, Program Director, National Sheep Improvement Program. He pointed to how the cattle industry uses EPDs (expected progeny differences) to select for traits. “We can do the same with our tools, but we must get more sheep enrolled into the program,” said Tom Boyer, Utah sheep producer.
Carcass and meat quality
Understanding what leads to quality American Lamb on the plate means looking beyond the live animal to carcass quality, stressed Lamb Summit speakers involved in processing and foodservice.
Individual animal traceability is ultimately what is required to give consumers the transparency they are demanding, said Henry Zerby, PhD, Wendy’s Quality Supply Chain Co-op, Inc. A lamb producer himself, Zerby was straight-forward to the Summit participants: “Being able to track animals individually to know if they were ever given antibiotics, how they were raised, through the packer is on the horizon. We need to realize and prepare for that.” US lamb processors are implementing systems at various levels and offer programs for sheep producers.
Lamb flavor has been an industry topic for decades. Dale Woerner, PhD, Texas Tech University meat scientist, has been conducting research funded by ALB. He explained that flavor is a very complex topic, influenced by characteristics such as texture, aroma, cooking and handling of the product, and even emotional experience. “Lamb has more than one flavor profile, affected by feeding and other practices,” he explained. Summit participants tasted four different lamb samples, which illustrated Woerner’s points about various preferences and profiles.
“By grouping carcasses or cuts into flavor profile groups, we can direct that product to the best market,” he said. The Lamb Board research is currently in the final phase of research on using technology to identify flavor profiles in the processing plant.
The Summit was designed to instill relevant, meaningful knowledge that can be implemented immediately to address both current and future needs. It also sought to inspire collaboration, networking and information sharing across all segments and geographic regions of the American Lamb industry.
“If we work together to implement progressive production changes throughout our supply chain, we can regain market share from imported product and supply our country with more great-tasting American Lamb,” concluded ALB Chairman Thorne. ALB hopes that attendees left the Summit with multiple ideas to do just that.