|A Unified Effort on the Hill by Sheep Industry
(June 1, 2006) As is tradition, sheep producer leaders traveled to Washington, D.C., at the beginning of May to visit with legislators who determine policies that greatly affect each one of our businesses. This trip has proven to be crucial to the industry as legislators need to be aware of the issues that impact the U.S. sheep industry.
I enjoyed seeing the efforts of more than 50 producer leaders from 22 states representing the sheep industry put together a unified effort on the Hill.
In addition, we use this opportunity to meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the latest information about important programs to the sheep industry. For the second consecutive year, Secretary Mike Johanns opened his schedule to meet with our group. His visits are always appreciated; in addition, it gave the industry a chance to thank him for his work in funding the $5 million lamb roast purchase program and urge him of the importance of the Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb (LRP-Lamb) program.
Another integral part of the legislative trip is the annual American lamb barbeque, which is used to promote American lamb and wool. This year, the lamb meat for the barbeque was donated by Tony Catelli of Catelli Brothers. We appreciate their assistance in helping make the event a huge success and for the presence of Doug Buchanan, representing Catelli Brothers at the barbeque.
Even though issues throughout the industry vary depending on location and size, many things remain consistent across all operations. The American Sheep Industry Association’s (ASI) top priorities this year were the re-authorization of the Mandatory Price Reporting Act, which expired October 2005; approval of appropriations funding for the continued operations of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC), increased funding to Wildlife Services (WS) for predation-management programs for livestock and scrapie eradication; and consideration of the disaster assistance bill and the immigration reform bills as they relate to the sheep industry.
The U.S. lamb industry has not had retail price reporting of lamb or wholesale price reporting of imported lamb, which accounts for approximately 50 percent of the lamb products sold in the United States, since the expiration. Most domestic lamb companies have voluntarily complied with reporting; however, there was a period of two weeks this past winter in which no lamb carcass reports were available. Producer leaders voiced their opinion that the industry needs USDA to have the authority to collect the price information.
Appropriate funding for key programs of the sheep industry, such as the NSIIC, WS and scrapie eradication, is also a concern. The message that members of the Appropriation Committee heard was that the industry supports an appropriation of $1.25 million to the NSIIC, the same level as last year. In addition, an increase of $8.3 million in funding to the Livestock Protection Program of WS and an increase of $1 million over last year’s appropriation to the National Scrapie Eradication Program. This increase is essential to the eradication effort being accomplished in a timely manner.
The third issue of importance to ASI is the emergency disaster assistance bill for farmers and ranchers. In addition to providing assistance to those who suffered loses due to Hurricane Katrina, wildfires in Texas and flooding in North Dakota, Hawaii and California, the Senate version also includes a provision to use $15 million to make payments under the Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Payment Program. ASI members voiced their support of this inclusion during their visits and will be active in supporting the final approval of a House-Senate agreement.
Without our volunteer members making the trip to Washington, D.C., programs, such as the ones I mentioned above, would not be available to our producers. I want to thank each member who attended this year’s legislative trip, as you helped make it a success.
Arizona: Dwayne and Carol Dobson; California: Lesa Eidman, Richard and Stacy Hamilton; Colorado: Bonnie Kline; Idaho: Stan Boyd, Marie Bulgin, DVM, Henry and Kathy Etcheverry, Mary Matlock, John Noh, Frank Shirts, Margaret Soulen Hinson; Indiana: Bob Benson; Iowa: Stan and Jean Potratz; Maine: Brant Miller; Maryland: Joan Hobbs; Michigan: Jim Bristol, Bill Blake; Minnesota: Jeremy Geske, Bob Padula; Montana: Chase Hibbard; Nebraska: Dwight and Sharon Tisdale; New Mexico: Tom and Pam Runyan; North Carolina: Bill Sparrow, Jr.; North Dakota: Burdell Johnson; Ohio: Steve Wickersham, Guy Flora; Oregon: Margaret Magruder, Paul Lewis; Texas: Glen and Linda Fisher, Lynn and Helen Glass, DA Harral, Steve Salmon, Tim, DVM, and Judy Turner, Ray and Jeri Willoughby; Utah: Clark Willis, Sarah Peters, Dennis Richens; Virginia: Leo Tammi; West Virginia: Jason and Sigrid Teets; Wyoming: Jerry Diltz, Bob Innes, Gene Hardy, Dave Julian, Bryce Reece.