|The Summer in Review
(Spetember 1, 2008) As summer is winding down, I feel like through the past months I have gotten a chance to tell you all about some major issues in the sheep industry, and how we as producers and the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) have stepped up to the challenges and represented our industry.
Our hard work has paid off on many of the issues that we have faced, and none have been more exciting than the recent proposed legislation regarding the allowance of Argentina sheep and lamb meat into the United States.
In previous columns I explained the issue surrounding the proposed rule, namely the threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and the economic damage that could result from yet another lamb supplier pushing into a shrinking market.
In July, Sens. Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) along with numerous cosigners proposed legislation in the Senate and Reps. Barbara Cubin (Wyo.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.) and other cosponsors proposed similar legislation in the House that basically prohibited any ruminant and swine products (except dried, cured or cooked products) from any region of Argentina from entering the United States until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can certify to Congress that Argentina is free of FMD. The bill ensures that Argentina must achieve a FMD-free status WITHOUT vaccination before any lamb, and other meat imports, are eligible to be imported into the United States.
This bill was highly applauded by ASI and some in the cattle industry as Argentina has had well-documented cases of FMD, and the area that is proposed to be allowed to export meat to the United States is surrounded by FMD-infected areas, posing a high risk of airborne transmission of the disease. This bill is key to ensuring the health of our national livestock herds and flocks. The South Dakota state veterinarian and many of his colleagues from other states are leading proponents of this legislation.
On a second front, ASI supported language in the Senate Appropriations for Agriculture to restrict any funds at USDA in fiscal year 2009 to issue the proposed rule. Due to ASI’s effort, Sen. Johnson prevailed on a voice vote of the committee. This, like all appropriations bills, may not be completed until late winter, so it is still very important that you and your state association have your senators and representatives actively support this legislation.
You may recall that the proposal issued in 2007 totally failed to accurately analyze the U.S. sheep industry, therefore removing any confidence that the USDA could properly analyze a foreign sheep industry thousands of miles away. According to the USDA’s erroneous analysis, it expected less price impact on U.S. sheep producers from increased lamb imports as we primarily raise sheep for wool not lamb! Also, USDA has told Congress they cannot guarantee the border between Patagonia and other regions of Argentina.
In other legislative news, the Country of Origin Labeling law is now in place and USDA is full steam ahead in implementing it. ASI has been busy commenting on the latest implementation details. The association has also been meeting with sale barns, meat companies, the Agricultural Marketing Service and other livestock groups on implementation efforts for the Sept. 30, 2008, deadline.
This law is a major victory for the lamb industry and ASI, who was the first livestock group to support labeling of imported meat, and has consistently and actively done so for the dozen years it has taken to be implemented.
Another hot topic that I have discussed frequently is wildlife management by the Wildlife Services (WS) program. There has been much work this year in our industry to ensure this much-needed agency receives the funding and other support it needs, which in turn, ensures that we can continue to have a productive sheep industry.
USDA released a safety review of WS’ wildlife damage management program, and kudos should go out to this necessary agency.
It was found that in areas of safety policy and procedures to ensure all employees are as safe as possible, the WS was extremely effective and has a successful safety record. To top that, it was suggested that WS’ explosives program could serve as a model for other agencies and groups. More directly related to the sheep industry, a special mention was given to the WS’ aviation program, which has received a Gold Standard Certification for aviation safety – and as we know, has been more than instrumental in predator control issues for our industry.
This review and the commendations that WS has received just further solidifies that we are backing a truly helpful and responsible agency, and I hope that it will just continue to be a leader in wildlife damage management and safety procedures!