July 15, 2003
Stenholm Hosts Lamb Summit
Congressman Charles Stenholm (D-TX) on May 28 hosted an international meeting of lamb producers at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.
In attendance were Ambassador Michael Thawley, Australia; Right Honorable Mike Moore, who represented the New Zealand embassy; and industry representatives from the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
In preparation for the meeting, Stenholm asked the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) to work with Meat & Livestock Australia and Meat New Zealand to develop an agenda, identify participants and explore possible areas of agreement for the gathering. Identifying marketing and trade issues between the three countries was key to the agenda.
Congressman Stenholm, ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, stated that the United States is an open market for lamb without barriers, and that, therefore, each supplying country has great responsibility to this marketplace.
In his opening remarks, Chico Denis, vice president of the Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers? Association, commended all participants for their willingness to meet to address joint issues crucial to the future of the sheep industry. U.S. delegates representing the National Lamb Feeders Association, American Lamb Board and ASI also presented questions and issues pertaining to variability of supply, price differences of lamb products from the three countries and the impact of currency exchange rates as witnessed in recent years.
The exchange rate between the United States and the currencies of the two lamb-exporting countries has improved over the last year from the 40-percent declines witnessed from 1997 through 2001, which made it difficult for U.S. producers to compete with foreign suppliers. In addition, the short supply of lamb in all three countries due to serious drought conditions in both the United States and Australia, has strengthened lamb prices in recent months. Also discussed was the desire to increase demand for lamb, thus ensuring a strong and healthy U.S. sheep industry with strong lamb returns. The industries compared lamb production statistics, marketing programs and funding as well as possible opportunities for exports of particular lamb cuts.
The U.S. industry delegates will be visiting with their boards this summer to prioritize the goals and expectations for a meeting later in the year with all suppliers.
Ambassador Thawley stated that from the Australian perspective, they supported additional meetings of lamb producers and are prepared to put serious effort and resources into cooperative efforts to improve the situation for lamb in the United States and other world markets. New Zealand representatives also indicated support for future meetings.
Guy Flora, ASI president, was pleased that so many U.S. sheep organizations took advantage of the opportunity to meet with the leadership of these countries to seriously discuss issues in the U.S. lamb market.
"We appreciate the work of Congressman Stenholm in facilitating the meeting and inviting the government and industry officials to address lamb issues. The public recognition that the U.S. is and has historically been an open market for lamb and that there are responsibilities that must be shared by all suppliers cannot be emphasized enough,? Flora said. ?It is up to the industry to communicate with suppliers and seek healthy solutions for a strong U.S. industry and lamb market.?