American Lamb on the Rise

American Lamb Is Part of U.S. Culture

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

American lamb is as popular as ever. California Ag Today recently spoke about lamb with Jim Percival, chair of the American Lamb Board, who is also a lamb producer in Ohio.

“It is part of our culture, and the majority of the folks that raised lamb in the U.S. are family operations, family farms,” Percival said.

Some of the farms are generational: three to five generations old. The American Lamb Board is working to build that domestic demand for lamb. They have seen an increase in the last couple of years.

“We are finding that millennials love American lamb, and that is one of the things that excites us,” Percival said.

John Percival is Chair of the American Lamb Board

“[There’s] our Feed Your Adventure Side campaign; we have also worked really hard to make lamb more approachable, easy to serve, and easy to fix,” he explained.

“The millennials also want something different, and lamb is a wonderful premium protein and they love the taste. They love the texture, they love the meat, and they’re flocking to it.”

Lamb is especially popular in California and other places on the West Coast.

“We still do that lamb jam every year in San Francisco, and that is still a huge event that a lot of people show up to,” Percival said.

After 16 years without open trade, Japan has recently opened back up for American lamb producers. Trade was closed after the BSE scare, and lamb was never able to be exported into Japan. As of two weeks ago, the first load of American lamb was shipped to Japan.

The demand there is very strong; the Japanese want that premium protein product.

“The chefs over there are asking for our product, and we see that as a real opportunity for growth for American lamb,” Percival said.

“Japan was one of our biggest trade partners before it was closed. I’m sure it is going to have a huge impact on the California producers, and the demand there is very strong, but as with anything else, our biggest thing is to make sure that more Americans are eating more American. Lamb,” Percival said.

The American Lamb Board, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and ASI all worked together to open the market back up with Japan.

Paul Wenger: We Must Take Advantage of Signal to D.C.

California Farm Bureau Federation says Republican President, House and Senate are good news for California Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the recent 98th Annual Meeting of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) there was definitely a positive buzz in the air regarding the recent election.

Walnut and almond grower and CFBF President Paul Wenger said agriculture should take quick advantage of what is an unexpected trifecta.

president of the California Farm Bureau Federation
Paul Wenger

“During the Bush administration, the Republicans controlled the house and the Senate and also the White House, and we didn’t quite get done the things that we want to get done, but I think there was a signal sent in this last election,” Wenger said.  “It surprised everybody. It surprised the Republicans, the Democrats, the Independents – everybody. The establishment. The non-establishment.”

Wenger said the industry has an opportunity to work with the incoming Trump Administration to actually get some things done. “I think the voters sent a very clear signal. We don’t want business as usual. We want to see things get done. People need jobs. People need to be able to not be held down by all this regulatory morasses out there, and so I think in the first 100 days and definitely within the first 14 months, it will make or break this administration,” Wenger said.

“We need to work together. We need to get moderate Democrats with the Republicans. We cannot allow … divisions within the Republican party. We’re lucky to have California Congressman and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy in a very influential position,” Wenger said. “We have a great list of congressmen around the state – not only in the Republican but the Democrat side – to work together. So let’s solve some problems.”

Wenger noted that agriculture needs relief from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I think one of the things that the Trump Administration wants to do through the Interior and the EPA is to get some relaxation or some equity in the Endangered Species Act,” Wenger said.

“The Endangered Species Act was put in under a Republican administration, but nobody thought it would be carried out to the extreme that it is. It’s a very immovable object. Let’s get some flexibility in this that gives mankind the same equal footing that we have for other species because we’re dependent upon that water,” Wenger said.  “We can have a healthy environment and a healthy economy and produce food, but so far, those doors have been slammed shut, and it’s only one way, and that’s the species way.”

The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is another issue. “We’re going to have to work with the Trump Administration. He came out during the campaign, said he was against it. He said he was against NAFTA. We need these trade agreements,” Wenger said. “He said he was going to put up a wall, but the other day he said in that wall there’s going to be doors, so if we can work with this Trump Administration and make sure that we have an available legal workforce, that’s great, but Waters of the US (WOTUS) is dead in the first few days of his administration,” Wenger said. “This will be good for all farmers and ranchers across the country.”

WOTUS is a rule that was a 2015 ruling by EPA as part of the Clean Water Act, which says that the EPA as expanded agency over bodies of water and even low areas of ag land where water can settle. It has been met with lawsuits form many states, and major pushback by agriculture.

Wenger said that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may also get another look.  “We think there’s a good potential that they’ll take another look at and make it more practical rather than this onerous rule that everybody’s trying to figure out,” Wenger said.  “Also, we think the estate tax is something that he’ll take a look at.”

“We’re excited to work with a new administration, see what we can forge in the first 100 days for sure, and at least in the first 14 months so that not only do we have a trifecta for the first two years of his administration, but the last two years too,” Wenger said.