Record Attendance at Sheep Industry Convention in San Antonio
February 1, 2013

America's largest sheepskin and pelt company, with its tanning facility in San Antonio, Texas, provided the perfect launch to the 2013 American Sheep Industry Association (ASI)/National Lamb Feeders Association convention with an extensive educational program and tour. Wool pelts are an important portion of the value of a slaughter lamb and the market is truly international with U.S. prices affected by global markets. According to Mike Wheeler, president of Nugget International, the current market situation reflects China is very aggressive, the United States is trending up, South Africa and France have firm skin markets but are short on supply and Australia is experiencing rapid price increases. 
 
"All pelts have value since no one skin can make all things," says Wheeler. "U.S. pelts are more valuable with the wool on them since these provide extra flexibility in the various stages of processing." 
 
The U.S. wool industry was given international recognition this past year with two highly visible global events. For only the third time in the past 81 years, the International Wool Textile Organization (IWTO) Congress was hosted by ASI in New York City in May 2012. The event boasted the largest attendance in many years and, most notably, the largest Chinese delegation ever at an IWTO congress held outside of China. ASI seized the opportunity by using this event to host trade missions from China, India, Germany and Uruguay. 
 
For the first time in the United States, manufacturers, retailers, designers and wool producers joined together to launch Prince Charles' Campaign for Wool in September 2012 to revive the nation's understanding and interest in wool, increase consumer demand and educate consumers about its natural benefits. Sheep were the talk of the event as they were brought into the world's most energetic city, New York, to graze freely and play center stage in a stunning installation called 'WOOL UNCOVERED' which transformed the famous Manhattan outdoor living space -- Bryant Park -- into a woolen wonderland. 
 
"ASI has supported the Campaign for Wool for a number of years and continues to contribute to this worldwide wool promotion," says Rita Kourlis Samuelson, ASI wool marketing director. "We were pleased to bring the major attraction - live sheep - to the campaign's debut in New York City." 
 
Undersecretary Edward Avalos, U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Marketing and Regulatory Programs, addressed the department's work with ASI including the $12 million in lamb meat purchases to move nearly three million pounds of excess product out of the market channel. 
 
Avalos referred to the U.S. senators' request of the department and the work underway on a lamb market investigation, as well as the continuation of Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb insurance. He spoke to three additional projects with the industry including instrument grading of lamb, tenderness certification of lamb and welcomed the ASI commissioned report on potential updates to the Mandatory Price Reporting system for lamb. The undersecretary affirmed the secretary's support for Wildlife Services efforts with producers to protect livestock and the need to fund USDA disaster programs referencing the severe drought across America. 
 
U.S. Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) spoke to the convention attendees with similar thoughts on the costs of feed and lack of feedstuffs due to the drought of 2012. The congressman serves as House Agriculture Subcommittee chair and his comments were very timely regarding the next steps for a multi-year Farm Bill, livestock disaster funding and immigration reform. 
 
The themes common to presentations across the three days and twenty-some different meetings included the 2010-2012 lamb market and the concerns about record feed costs and feed availability for sheep operations. 
 
ASI commissioned the Livestock Marketing Information Center to do an analysis of the current Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMP) system for lamb and to review the current lamb marketing data that are frequently unavailable. Discussions of some potential remedies to help correct the issues in an effort to improve lamb reporting under LMR were requested. The reporting threshold level and confidentiality were reported as the two major issues impacting lamb price reporting. 
 
Solutions include updating regulatory guidelines to better reflect the current industry structure by adjusting the volume thresholds downward, changing report categories and descriptors to reflect current marketing practices in an effort to provide more accurate and usable market information and consolidating reports and/or sections of reports (internal and external) to ensure market data is reported. 
 
Discussion pursued about lamb markets with prices showing some improvement in recent weeks. It was predicted that lamb prices will trend higher over the next couple of years while the industry rebuilds the demand that was damaged by high prices and quality inconsistencies. 
 
Despite continued concerns about the impact drought conditions and high feed costs may have on the industry's ability to rebuild its inventory, the Rebuild Committee stayed optimistic about continuing the programs of the Let's Grow initiative. The committee allocated budgeted funds for mentor programs in participation with state sheep producer associations and anticipates publishing additional management efficiency tips for producers. 
 
A new slate of officers was elected during the board of directors meeting on Saturday, Jan. 26, with Clint Krebs (Ore.) taking the helm as president of the association. Burton Pfliger (N.D.) took the office of vice president and Mike Corn (N.M.) cinched the position of secretary/treasurer. In addition, six new members were elected to the ASI Executive Board: Keith Stumbo (N.Y.), Region I; Bob Leer (Ky.), Region II; Susan Shultz (Ohio), Region III; Benny Cox (Texas), Region V; Gary Visintainer (Colo.), Region VI; and Joe Pozzi (Calif.), Region VIII. Marsha Spykerman (Iowa) was re-elected for an additional two-years to be the Region IV representative and Larry Pilster continues as the Region VII representative.