Omnibus Bill Offers Good News for Sheep Industry
May 5, 2017

Avoiding the possibility of a shutdown, the U.S. Senate on Thursday, May 4, approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill that funds the government through the remainder of fiscal year 2017.

The Omnibus Bill provided good news for sheep producers, as it includes language suggested by the American Sheep Industry Association concerning conflicts between bighorn and domestic sheep.

In order to ensure the nation does not lose its domestic sheep industry or bighorn sheep conservation legacy, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management shall implement a variety of solutions, including the following directives: The agencies are directed to complete risk of contact analyses using appropriate data sources, such as from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and to share the findings with the public. The Forest Service is expected to engage the Agricultural Research Service to ensure the best scientific understanding of where disease transmission occurs and the degree of that risk and to assist USFS with identifying all allotments that are suitable for sheep grazing.

USFS and BLM also are directed to identify and implement actions to resolve issues on allotments with a high risk of disease transmission, including, if agreeable to the directly affected stakeholders, the relocation of domestic sheep to allotments with a low risk, pending any site-specific environmental analysis. Together, the agencies are encouraged to convene a meeting of stakeholders interested in collaborating on strategies and solutions to address the risk of disease transmission and to report to the committees on implementation of these directives within 60 days of enactment of this act.

Other victories for producers in the Omnibus Bill include:
  • A $500,000 increase for the Equine, Cervid and Small Ruminant Health Program;
  • A $2.2 million increase for the Wildlife Damage Management Program;
  • Continued funding for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho.