Environment Secretary Liz Truss, who met with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Washington, said the move would allow farmers to start exporting British beef to the United States’ 300 million consumers for the first time since restrictions on beef imports from the EU were lifted in 2014.
The restrictions on lamb are expected to be lifted in early 2017.
“We already export nearly £2 billion of food and drink to the USA every year, but we want to grow our exports even further and give our businesses more opportunities,” said Mrs Truss, describing the negotiations as ‘positive’.
Last October NFU President Meurig Raymond pressed the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to open up lamb and beef trade.
On his return, he urged the Secretary of State to visit officials in Washington to resolve outstanding US concerns.
The UK submitted a 1,000 page dossier last week to USDA, detailing the safety and quality of British beef and lamb.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “Re-opening the US beef and lamb market to UK imports would be an important confidence building measure for the British livestock sector. The US is potentially a huge and affluent market that has strong links to the UK as we share history and language.
“Securing access is one thing but building the market is another. We know we have a great product and story to tell and that our grass-fed beef and lamb is up there with the best in the world.
"The NFU asks that all those interested in selling beef and lamb in the US are afforded as much help as they need from the UK Government, AHDB and producers to market the product to US consumers. We are currently well placed to exploit any US/EU trade deal and negotiating on our own could delay access.”
Mrs Truss, who is also campaigning to stay within the EU, said leaving the union could affect future trade deals.
"These negotiations take a long time to conclude and require a great deal of effort and paperwork, which is why it is dangerous to take for granted the access we already have to the European market of 500 million people," she added.
"Our EU membership gives our beef and lamb farmers easy and tariff-free trade that was worth £600m last year. With 40 per cent of all the lamb we produce going to Europe, losing our full access to the single market would have severe consequences for British farmers."
Mr Sercombe called on the Government and authorities to resolve any ‘technical issues’ as soon as possible and to involve the whole supply chain.
“This might involve inspections to processing facilities,” he added.
“Timetables need to be as short as possible. Lamb in 2017 is encouraging - let’s not let a lack of ambition or Government support hold this up or delay it.
“However, average lamb consumption per head in the US is relatively small so targeting our promotion of both UK beef and lamb will be critical identifying the right consumers and areas of the US will be important. Strategic planning should start now which involves talking to retailers, food service and import agents.”
The Environment Secretary was visiting the US as part of a worldwide Food is GREAT campaign to champion British food and drink.