Avalos Cites Value of Market NewsRON DAINES
Sheep Industry News Contributor
When the Farm Bill passed Congress, USDA was prepared to hit the ground running, Edward Avalos, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, told the ASI board of directors in Charleston.
“Secretary Vilsak,” said Avalos, “called the undersecretaries in and said, ‘We’re going to get a Farm Bill, and we want all of you ready to roll out a program immediately. We can roll this out as soon as Congress does its job.’”
Avalos lamented that congressional delay of the Farm Bill, which expired in September, did real harm to ag producers and disrupted America’s food security.
In the future, it might be important for agriculture to seek a wider audience for a farm bill, which he said affects everyone in the country.
“If I took a poll of this room, you would agree that farming and ranching isn’t appreciated in this country. Few Americans understand where there food comes from,” Avalos said. “Farmers and ranchers make up only 1 percent of the population, but they produce 85 percent of the food we eat and so much more in exports. The other 99% of Americans have options to live where they want, to do what they want. They can take vacations, they can watch the Super Bowl.
“They have the luxury going to the grocery store. They have the luxury of going to a restaurant. They have the luxury of going to the farmers market.”
So what does all that mean, he asked? “It means that they have freedom,” said Avalos. “Farmers and ranchers represent freedom. Americans have freedom because 1% of people in rural America on a farm or a ranch have been so effective and so productive that they have given this country a stable, secure food supply.”
Avalos said his department learned during the 2013 government shutdown how important market news is to sheep producers.
“We got many phone calls asking where the prices are,” he said. “When you guys are on the hill, I’m asking you to put in a word to Congress for market news because it’s so important to your industry.”
He added that the staff at market news was on the job as soon as the shutdown ended and worked 10-12 hours a day to get price reporting back up and running.
Another important support for the industry is USDA’s Section 32 lamb purchase program administered under the Agricultural Marketing Service.
“The $5 million buy is just finished,” said Avalos. “With that I think we helped the producer by removing product from the market and helping to stabilize it”
He said predator control is a priority. “I want to emphasize to ASI that USDA is committed to work effectively to cooperatively allocate appropriate funding for predator control and predator control research.”
Avalos said he was moved by a personal experience on his visit to a Hutterite colony in Montana, where he was told that the experimental guard dogs placed with the community to protect against wolves and grizzly bears not only had allowed the producers to stay in business, but also allowed their wives and children to go for a walk in safety.
“We’re going to look for more resources to place more dogs.”
Avalos said the current buzz on Capitol Hill for predator control in the 2014 budget, however, is focused on feral swine, which are now in 39 states, cause billions in damage and carry disease. He said that $20 million is now in the budget for a national program on feral pigs.