February 3, 2006

The Honorable 
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Senator

The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) board of directors held their annual meeting in late January and a key issue of concern was the lack of market reports available for lamb.

A great deal of anxiousness was evident during the sheep industry convention due to the lack of market information and the downward trend of live slaughter lamb prices that has occurred since early November.  

As Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) was not reauthorized prior to expiration, voluntary compliance since then has meant that importing companies immediately stopped reporting imported lamb cuts which represents over forty percent of the total lamb in the U.S. market. The retail price series for lamb has not been available for months and most recently, the lack of participation from a sufficient number of lamb processors  has resulted in no lamb carcass sales being reported for the past two weeks.

ASI has worked for a year in a coalition with national organizations of the beef and pork industries in support of a five-year reauthorization of MPR. The House passed five-year mandatory price reporting legislation (HR 3408 ) last year.  The lamb industry simply needs reauthorization of MPR as all provisions of the lamb reporting system are by Departmental rulemaking.  The second priority of our industry is continuation of the retail price series for lamb contained in MPR reauthorization.  We continue to support the legislative efforts of the meat industry coalition; however it is imperative that reauthorization for lamb be accomplished now before we have no reporting of lamb price data at all.

ASI calls on the leadership of the Senate to address this immediate threat to the U.S. lamb industry and to reauthorize MPR immediately.  Our industry has dealt with uncertainty in the lamb market, a serious decline in slaughter lamb prices for three months and voluntary compliance with MPR, while considered critical, is tenuous at this time. 

Domestic lamb processors have by and large voluntarily complied with market reporting since October; however their competitors representing imported lamb have not, which presents a serious lack of fairness in the lamb industry.  The recent lack of carcass reports places producers who market their lambs “on the rail” at a serious disadvantage.  Additionally, proposed rulemaking to continue fine tuning and updates to the lamb reporting system are on hold as the act has expired.

We continue to commit our resources to working with Congress in this important effort of reauthorization and ask every consideration be given now to promptly resolving the lamb market reporting situation.

The U.S. sheep industry completed another year of expansion in both sheep inventory and growth in farms and ranches producing sheep.  This positive course of the industry should not be hampered with lack of market information.  The dialogue of the past twelve months has not been one of federal involvement in livestock market reporting or not, but rather the details of federally mandated reports.  The unintended consequence of detail negotiation has been serious erosion of market information in the U.S. lamb industry.

This dilemma in market reporting is of U.S. making; unlike numerous international concerns that farm and ranch families deal with from currency exchange rates, closing and opening of the Canadian market and the still closed Japanese market to U.S. lamb.  We implore Congress to quickly remove one uncertainty in the livelihood of sheep producers and resolve MPR reauthorization.

Paul R Frischknecht