|“I am Here to Work for You”
By MACKENZIE FLETCHER
Sheep Industry News Contributor
(March 1, 2013) Edward Avalos was a proud representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as he opened the American Sheep Industry Association’s (ASI) Board of Directors meeting in San Antonio. He is a well-known figure in the ASI organization as he is the undersecretary of the Marketing and Regulatory Programs for USDA.
“If we pass this final rule, what is this going to do to the producer, what’s it going to do to the feeder, and what’s that going to do to the processor,” Avalos says as he explains in detail how much he cares who his decisions affect.
“I am there to work for you, I am there to create opportunities for the sheep industry to be successful,” Avalos says. Avalos then mentioned how he views the decrease in lamb prices.
“Que Paso, what happened? Prices were fantastic but now they are way below what they were last year,” Avalos says. He explained how the drought and high prices of feed have affected the lamb market prices for this year. The undersecretary reminded the audience of the $12 million provided under the section 32 commodity purchase program in 2012 for lamb meat and that the program has already helped prices for producers.
Avalos mentioned several initiatives in which ASI is involved including updating the mandatory price reporting system for lamb which is underway, tenderness certification of lamb meat and continuing the Livestock Risk Program for lamb price insurance.
“The lamb industry has many challenges, but one challenge we don’t have is the tenderness of our product.” Instrument grading of lamb carcasses is another cooperative project with ASI. Avalos realizes the question of implementation is cost, but that the department is open to discussing how to implement it.
“Mandatory price reporting is a priority and we look forward to the ASI report on recommendations and will move forward as quickly as possible,” Avalos stated.
Avalos added that the new animal disease traceability rule used the scrapie program’s identification which was developed in support of ASI.
The undersecretary took a number of questions from the convention participants, including the proposed assessment of the American lamb promotion program and the need to open or reopen export markets for American lamb, such as Japan. He also responded to questions on support of USDA’s Wildlife Services, and reminded the group of the support the program provides for livestock protection and that he knows first-hand how important it is to farmers and ranchers.
He said that rural America has a huge impact on today’s economy and due to that fact, “Why is it so hard for Congress to pass the five-year Farm Bill?” Avalos asked.
He continued on saying that only 16 percent of people today live in rural America, which is the lowest amount ever in this country’s history.
“We have an opportunity to tell the story of modern-day rural America,” Avalos says. He ended with a toast to all the producers, rural America and all the programs within the sheep industry.