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Another Successful D.C. Trip on Behalf of American Sheep ProducersMike Corn, ASI President
My travels in the past month have included stops in Washington, D.C., for ASI’s annual spring legislative trip, and to California for the California Ram Sale. I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me when I say that I’m much more comfortable at a sheep sale than on Capitol Hill.
In California, it was a pleasure to visit with so many friends and customers. They had a great sale once again, and everyone seemed optimistic about both the lamb and wool markets, as well as the end of the state’s recent drought. Many producers in the state will have an abundance of feed for the first time in years.
I was somewhat at home in our nation’s capitol thanks to the nearly 80 sheep producers who flew in for two days of meetings with congressional leaders and government agencies. With producers from 18 states, this was the largest crowd of volunteer leaders we have gathered in 20-plus years of the spring trip.
The 2018 farm bill, tax reform, funding predator control and animal health were key points in many of the congressional meetings. I am always impressed by how many members of Congress – and their senior staffers – participate in the meetings with sheep producers.
The farm bill discussion was set up by Texan Bob Buchholz’s testimony before the livestock subcommittee of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee on March 21. I encourage you to read more about that testimony (on page 15 of this issue) and share it with your representatives and senators this year.
We have also set up meetings with the U.S. Department of Agriculture every year during this trip because we partner on so many issues and programs – from Wildlife Services to Veterinary Services to the Agricultural Marketing Service and foregin agriculture. While we visit with those officials year-round, it is key to have one setting with the D.C.-based personnel where sheep producers discuss production topics and how government programs work in the field.
This year, we hit Mandatory Price Reporting with USDA’s AMS. The lack of full reporting for more than a year has certainly been a key issue for the industry as a whole. USDA has since shared that they will put the sheep industry meeting on a key price reporting study for congress on the calendar for July – a delay of two months to ensure we have all the analysis requested before asking more industry volunteers to travel to Washington, D.C.
The interim policy on M-44 coyote control in the dozen states that use the tool was front and center with USDA Wildlife Services. Earlier the week of our meetings, the issue was a topic of conversation not far from where we were staying. We believe an updated policy is in the works that will put this important tool to better use. Animal activists have been vocal about pulling all lethal control methods – the M-44 situation is no different – so this serves as a good reminder that state associations need to keep their congressional delegations informed on coyote management.
In the states of use, 40 percent of coyote take is with this tool, and 30 percent nationally. Agencies and producers save valuable time and funds with the device as compared to traps. There are certain times of the year – due to mud or canopy cover – M-44 is the only tool engaged.
I encourage you to consider attending the Washington, D.C., trip in 2018. We have producers each year participate for the first time and build relationships with the senior office staff that provides crucial communication on sheep topics year round.