|Bidding a Fond Farewell as President
(February 1, 2009) While my time as president of this great organization has drawn to a close, I am heartened by the work we as an industry and association have been able to accomplish together. It has been with great pride that I have been able to serve you all for the past two years, and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the people of our business from coast to coast.
As a fourth-generation sheep producer myself, I understand that for the American Sheep Industry Association’s (ASI) members, sheep ranching is not just a way of life, it is in our blood. This industry has some of the hardest working, most knowledgeable and truly dedicated people who love the land, their livestock and their country. Every time I see a lamb or wool product out there on the market, I am reminded just how important the sheep industry is to the United States.
And it is because of this importance, that ASI has been so dedicated to its membership. As I have traveled around the country, meeting with producers, I have always spread the message that this association belongs to the sheep producers; it is solely here to represent you and your interests.
During my time with ASI, I was an ASI Executive Board representative for Region IV, as well as served on numerous ASI committees including resolutions, predator management, nominating, strategic planning, 2002 and goat. I have also served as co-chair of ASI’s Legislative Action Council and chair of the Industry Task Force Committee, and I can say based on the hundreds of producer leaders that I have worked with in this time, our industry has been, and continues to be, represented by a very high caliber of industry leaders and association staff.
During my presidency, there have been several accomplishments of the association that I am particularly proud of. First and foremost, as our association’s first president from North Dakota, I would very much like to thank my state’s congressman and both U.S. senators for their whole-hearted support of the U.S. sheep industry, and am pleased with their political leadership in issues such as disaster assistance and Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb (LRP-Lamb), to name a few. We really need all the political support we can get, and I encourage each and every one of you to know your federal delegation, support them and know them well enough to guide them in support of the sheep industry.
Just as political leaders are important to our industry, I firmly believe that our youth are about the most important asset that we have. As I leave the post of president, I am pleased that ASI has a Youth Taskforce, formed in 2008, to work on programs for the young producers in our business. The Youth Taskforce, which is comprised of youth from our industry and dedicated producer leaders, represents the involvement of the next generation of sheep producers.
In 2007, after the hard work on the parts of many, LRP-Lamb became a reality. For the first time, sheep producers have available a product designed to insure against unexpected market declines and can put their money back into the industry by purchasing the product from ASI-owned Food and Fiber Risk Managers. The product and the insurance firm have had an impact through strengthening the industry on several levels.
I am pleased that the sheep industry continues to work together on the priority issues of the sheep business. Not only do we have all sheep producer and feeder organizations meeting together but also agreeing on key topics. This year’s successful effort to bring $2 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture lamb purchases is a prime example. The National Lamb Feeders Association, lamb meat companies and ASI agreed this was an important request and jointly supported our lobby efforts to secure the funds.
2008 witnessed the implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling for lamb. I am not taking credit for labeling mind you, and in fact, country-of-origin labeling has been worked on by ASI since the early 1990s.
In addition, I was proud to work with the association to protect our sheep industry from those issues that affect our livelihood. We have actively defended the registration of the M-44s and livestock protection collar for predator control against the attacks by animal rights groups.
I need to commend the ASI taskforce on the bighorn sheep conflict that has worked very diligently to help resolve this tough issue. The taskforce has worked to form alliances with the groups involved on both sides of the issue and supplied tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees and technical issue support this year.
Through work with legislators, we were also able to derail legislation that would allow imports from Argentina, protecting both our lamb market and national flock health.
As you can see, our accomplishments have been great, and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your dedication to making our industry a success and wish you all the best of luck in your ventures. While I now bid a farewell to you all as an ASI officer, you can rest assured that your association is in the very capable hands of a talented and knowledgeable officer team that you recently elected.
Of course, I will still be very active in the association, as I believe that keeping a strong, growing industry is a top priority for all of us, including myself, and I look forward to continued work with all of you to make sure that happens.