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Big move in lamb imports resuming between U.S., United Kingdom

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that after talks with President Joe Biden, the United States has agreed to lift the ban on U.K. lamb imports.

The ban – in place since 1989 due to the mad cow BSE crisis in the U.K. – hinges on finalization of the USDA Small Ruminant Scrapie rule. The rule was initially proposed in 2015, and the American Sheep Industry Association last submitted comments in September 2016.

At the request of ASI earlier this year, many members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate wrote the Biden administration with industry concerns and requests on this topic.

“The fact that lamb trade rose to this level of government talks reflects the frustration of U.K. farmers that we delayed lamb long after beef trade resumed,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick. “We have asked successive administrations to prioritize export opportunities for American lamb before allowing additional lamb imports into the domestic market, which is already heavily influenced by imported product.”

“We are also concerned that the economic analysis underpinning the final scrapie rule is woefully inadequate. Last updated in 2015, the economic analysis does not take into account the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and the significant disruptions that has caused to their lamb exports to the European Union,” said Orwick.

The final scrapie rule is currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget for promulgation.

ASI is aware that some members would welcome the finalization of this rule in order to import heritage genetics from the United Kingdom and other nations.

In the northern Ireland news outlet “Farming Life,” Ulster Farmers Union deputy president William Irvine said: “We welcome this announcement from the UK Prime Minister, that going forward, the UK will now be able to export sheep meat to the USA. The opening of this market for our Northern Ireland (NI) sheep farmers has the potential to provide positive returns to the NI sheep industry.

There is no indication yet of when the US will start accepting lamb and lamb products from the UK, and an official announcement has not been made.

The UK is the world’s fifth largest producer and the third largest exporter of sheep meat.

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