February 13, 2003
February 12, 2003
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? Legislative Action Council co-chairs Janet Mawhinney and Burdell Johnson presided over lively discussion in their meeting at the 2003 Annual American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Convention in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2003.
A legislative panel representing the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and the offices of two U.S. senators assembled to discuss current trends in Washington, D.C. The group of two republicans and two democrats complimented ASI on its effectiveness in the nation?s capital as well as on its foresight to implement a voluntary industry check-off program. They indicated that with the House continuing to lose votes from rural areas, it is getting more difficult to acquire the 218 votes necessary to pass agricultural bills, thus putting additional emphasis on the necessity to form a consensus.
The panel speculated that during the 108th Congress, there would possibly be over-sight hearings on the 2002 Farm Bill provision of country-of-origin labeling (COOL). When confronted with the question of drought assistance, all panel participants agreed that the outcome is still uncertain. They believe it is probable that the $250 million proposal will become available only if the funds can be offset within the agricultural budget. Other issues they assume will be addressed by this congress are trade, food safety, packer-owned livestock and crop insurance.
Also addressing the legislative council was Auggie Tantillo, the Washington consultant for the National Textile Association (NTA). Tantillo believes the Bush Administration will attempt Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with a number of countries and that there will be a lot of activity in this area over the next two years. FTA?s are part of the larger strategy of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which proposed elimination of all tariffs by 2015. Tariffs are only one component of the trade market with licensing affecting world markets as well.
ASI LEGISLATIVE ACTION COUNCIL UPDATE
Tantillo indicated that from the legislative side, congress has approved quota- and duty-free access to the U.S. textile market for the Caribbean, Central America and the Congo. The United States would like to initiate trade with India because this is currently a closed market to this country and there is a large middle-class population to purchase products. He confirmed that Mexico and Honduras continue to loose market share in the United States because of the Chinese market. China must find 15 million new jobs each year for new workers entering the marketplace and one area in which it is concentrating is the worldwide textile market.
Other items of discussion included:
Jim Richards, Chief of Staff to the Honorable Stevan Pearce (R-NM), was presented an ASI Guard Dog Award in recognition of his contributions in protecting the nation?s sheep and sheep producers. Richards was key in helping the industry retain the Wildlife Services program and implementing the emergency market loss assistance program for wool. He also assisted in the creation of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Program, the successful 201 Lamb Trade Case and the new wool marketing loan program.
- Minor Use / Minor Species Bill. Passage of this bill would allow more minor species drugs to enter the market more quickly. The prevalent concerns associated with this bill are antibiotic resistance and trans-genics. Committee is expected to present the bill in March 2003.
- Interstate shipment of state inspected meat. This is supported by all agricultural groups, and would give producers more markets for their products. Consumer groups have successfully stalled the issue by requesting the addition of pathogen testing.
- Meat Adjustment Assistance Program. Members of congress are receptive to this program, and will push forward for continuance of the new lamb-, feeder-lamb and ewe-retention programs.
?Legislative issues continue to influence the success and progress of the sheep industry. The presence of ASI members in Washington, D.C. helped to remind members of congress of the predominant issues in our industry,? said Peter Orwick, ASI Executive Director.
ASI is a national organization supported by 42 state sheep organizations, benefiting the interests of nearly 67,000 American sheep producers.