(August 1, 2007) This has been a big year for legislation supporting the sheep industry. After months of hard work, legislation authorizing disaster funding for livestock operations was approved, and now we continue efforts in support of the Farm Bill.
American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) representatives have been continually making the trip to Washington, D.C., to make sure the sheep producers’ voices are heard in the upcoming Farm Bill and have had encouraging meetings with congressional leaders.
In late May, the House began drafting the Farm Bill, and the subcommittees went to work drafting their proposals. The House Subcommittee on Specialty Crops, Rural Development and Foreign Agriculture marked up its draft of the Farm Bill the first week of June. With the support of U.S. Rep. John Salazar (Colo.) and Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (Minn.), the draft reauthorized the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC) through 2012 with appropriations authorized up to $10 million per year. We are encouraged that reinstatement of the NSIIC continues in a positive direction. ASI is seeking mandatory spending in the legislation so upon finalization of the Farm Bill, funds are readily available and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will set up the board rather than wait a year for annual appropriations.
With the conservation title, we were able to include new language under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to include authority for “prescribed grazing for the control of invasive species.” In this provision, we requested to further the ASI initiative of prescribed grazing with sheep.
The week of July 4, Peterson released a chairman’s mark up of the Farm Bill. With full committee consideration slated for mid July, the mark includes reauthorization of the Loan Deficiency Program for Wool and Unshorn Pelt. The base loan rate listed is $1.10 per pound. As readers will note, ASI is seeking the base loan rate at $1.20 so the program will work as intended. We appreciate the chairman’s support of the program and we will continue to actively support the $1.20 rate with the House as well as the Senate Agriculture Committee which is also working on their version of the Farm Bill.
As of press time, Peterson told members to anticipate a full committee mark up in mid July, and he informed them that his plan was to bring the committee-reported bill to the House floor at the end of July.
During this drafting process, one thing to keep in mind with this Farm Bill is that availability of funds has been a constant issue.
On a different note, LRP-Lamb will be coming down the pike soon, and I want to encourage all people to get involved in the pilot project if it is available in your state. You can also further support the sheep industry by purchasing the product through our Food and Fiber Risk Managers (FFRM) agency. This project has been a long time coming, and I am thrilled that our industry will finally have a chance to make it work for them.