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Making Strides in the Right DirectionMike Corn, ASI President
It was a busy summer as leaders of both ASI and the various state sheep associations held a handful of meetings at sites around the country in July and August.
Utah rancher and ASI Executive Board member Steve Osguthorpe hosted the executive board for our annual summer meeting in late July in Park City, Utah. It’s a beautiful place to raise sheep, and I thank Steve for his hospitality in hosting our group in conjunction with the Utah Wool Growers Association’s summer meeting.
Our chief concern in Utah was approving budgets for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. We also heard updates on new ways in which the association and the Wool Council are working to promote American wool. Look for more on that in the months to come.
Once we’d handled ASI business in the meeting room, we were able to enjoy a scenic tour of Steve’s operation. Riding the ski lift was, of course, a highlight even if they were a long way from having snow on the ground at that point in the year.
A few weeks later I was in Denver to attend a working session of ASI’s H-2A Sheepherder Committee. The H-2A program was a hot topic in our industry two summers ago as we awaited the outcome of changes to the program proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor. Thanks to overwhelming input from the industry, we reached a workable alternative to the original proposal and the issue settled down.
The committee – headed by Colorado’s Steve Raftopoulos – held a session to work through proposed legislation that would affect not only the H-2A program, but immigrant workers throughout agriculture. While we were fairly successful in navigating changes in 2015, we have a real opportunity now to affect positive change in this program for many years to come.
As one of just two sheep producers in the state of New Mexico who still uses herders through the H-2A program, I found the discussion – which included producers, the Western Range Association and Mountain Plains Agricultural Service – interesting. Jim Richards with our lobbying agency, Cornerstone Government Affairs, led the discussion. We also included representatives from the shearing industry, as they hire immigrant labor for jobs that are otherwise impossible to fill.
As we head into the fall, discussions are heating up on appropriations and the new farm bill. I’ve discussed each of these in the past, but they are extremely important topics for the sheep industry and agriculture as a whole. ASI Vice President Benny Cox missed our executive board meeting to testify on behalf of the industry at a U.S. House Agriculture Committee listening session in San Angelo, Texas. In the two minutes allotted to each speaker, he emphasized important topics for sheep producers that we hope will be addressed in the year to come.
We also received good news in August in the ongoing issue of Mandatory Price Reporting. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service informed sheep industry stakeholders that AMS will, for the first time, begin reporting lamb purchases by cooperatives on a weekly basis – starting in mid-August – in their new Comprehensive category.
ASI believes it is in the entire industry’s best interest that cooperative transactions be reported.