|Industry Looking Positive Heading into Summer
(May 1, 2010) The start to 2010 has certainly been encouraging in a number of ways, particularly prices. As of early April, there were limited sales reported on the wool side, but prices sound considerably higher than in 2009. The industry has been paying attention to sheep sales since the first of the year, and hopefully, positive markets move forward for all categories of lamb to cull ewes in 2010. The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is moving forward as well with the Wool Council helping clothing manufacturers implement superwash in the United States.
The Legislative Action and Resource Management Councils are working on numerous issues now that the federal government is discussing issues other than health care.
As ASI president, I traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to meet with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Undersecretary Edward Avalos to discuss the new sheep center, the section 32 lamb buy request, Mandatory Price Reporting and animal identification. I am hopeful, based on the meeting, that there will be a lamb buy decision announced this spring by the department and that the sheep center created by the 2008 Farm Bill is on track for rule development by May or early summer. I also met with officials of the House Committee on Appropriations for Agriculture and visited about the key sheep program funding from scrapie eradication to wild sheep/domestic sheep disease research.
Efforts continue by ASI and state associations on additional issues from immigration reform to cap and trade. In fact, as you read this in the first week of May, there are dozens of sheep producers converging on Capitol Hill to talk to Congressional staff and federal agencies on topics important to the sheep industry. I look forward to reporting back to you on these meetings in next month’s issue and hopefully on a couple of announcements by USDA in the meantime.
ASI has been active in providing comments for several issues that have been raised recently. In March, ASI and 18 livestock organizations submitted comments on the Payette National Forest Update to the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS). Several pieces of information were decided as not appropriate to the original proposal, so the Forest Service re-drafted and put forward the comments again. Industry responded that still a number of questions and issues raised by the original proposal were not addressed in this update.
Comments were also submitted regarding the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement that would add trade preference for New Zealand as well as revisit the U.S. agreement with Australia. We point out in our statement that there is no effective quota or tariff on imported lamb meat, and given history of surges in product, U.S. negotiators ought to look at means to address any surge in foreign product. Nearly all of the attention in these proposed trade deals will focus on beef and dairy, which have mechanisms in place; however, as we saw with the Australian deal several years ago, if those commodities yield little change, foreign government officials will talk up lamb.
ASI and the Re-build the Sheep Inventory Committee followed up on the January meeting with one in March including new members, Wes Limesand of North Dakota and Rob Rule of Iowa Lamb. The group launched two subcommittees, one to work on financing and incentives to increase sheep production and the other to develop information to support production. I am pleased to say both subcommittees moved forward in April with proposals to fund projects. I want to thank Guy Flora of Ohio, a past ASI president, for his leadership of the group during this first year of operation.
ASI was also invited to participate in the USDA’s Animal Health 2012-2017 National Program Planning Stakeholders Workshop which is held every five years to advise the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) on the development of their future research program priorities. The workshop, held March 23-24 in Baltimore, Md., was attended by ASI Vice President Margaret Soulen Hinson and ASI Health Committee Chairman Jim Logan, DVM. Sheep research priorities included infectious disease issues at the sheep/wildlife interface, scrapie, the ovine progressive pneumonia virus and diagnostic needs on several diseases as well as new approaches to internal parasites.
In a final note, ASI is supporting the progress of the American Goat Federation (AGF) by assisting with the finances and accounting for the organization. It is efficient for ASI to provide the service at this point in the process while AGF covers the administration costs of this assistance by ASI.