January 15, 2004
By Guy Flora, President, American Sheep Industry Association
Jan. 2004 -- When I sat down to write this column in mid-December, I had no difficulty choosing its topics. (Wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of were two of those messages.) However, there are other items I wish to share, which have been addressed and re-addressed by members of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Executive Board over the past several months.
Those of you who have attended an ASI convention, have served on the ASI executive board or who have worked closely with its members know that they put in many, many hours on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. December was no exception. During a mid-December conference call, they took action on several items, including the following:
U.S. Animal ID Plan
-- Responding to a request by the National Animal ID Team for input from a Species Specific Working Group, the board reviewed the sheep industry formation of such a group. A key opportunity for industry input will be at the ASI convention in Sacramento, and would be under the direction of ASI Research & Education Committee/Animal Health Committee member Dr. Cindy Wolf. Individuals representing various stakeholder groups, such as breed association representatives, packers, feeders, range and farm flock producers and regulatory veterinarians, will be invited to participate. Representatives of each livestock species are in the process of writing a plan they believe appropriate for their industry. Each species-specific plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service in report form. Because of the scrapie ID program, the sheep plan is already well progressed.
-- (Comments to the Federal Register) - The executive board discussed the possibility that the statutory deadline for implementation of mandatory meat labeling may be delayed until 2006 when Congress approves the appropriations bill after the first of the year. As USDA is not precluded from implementing mandatory labeling of lamb, it is very important that sheep growers comment on the proposed rule. The board approved comments for submission to USDA?s Agricultural Marketing Service. The many points made in the 10-page document all come back to our core belief that COOL is in the best interest of sheep producers and consumers alike, and will provide a necessary mechanism for building demand for American lamb. Copies of the comments were mailed to state sheep associations so they too could review and comment.
Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR)
-- (Comments to the Federal Register) - ASI strongly supports the changes proposed by USDA/AMS, to provide better market information particularly the inclusion of imported lamb meat and the definition of ?carlot lamb.? In fact, ASI has requested these changes since MPR?s inception in 2001. A motion to approve the draft comments for submission to USDA was passed.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
-- (Comments to the Federal Register) - USDA has proposed the further opening of trade with Canada. The board discussed the re-opening of the market in an orderly fashion to reduce the impact on U.S. lamb prices. Draft comments were approved for submission to USDA regarding the proposed rule to create a minimal-risk region and allow ruminants and ruminant products to be imported from Canada. (The comments were submitted the third week of December.) ASI agrees with USDA?s new classification of a minimal-risk region or creation of a minimal-risk region, taking into account valid risk assessments. On lambs direct to slaughter, as well as certain lamb products, ASI agrees with USDA that they can be imported. On live sheep for feeding, ASI is asking USDA to publish additional criteria for managing trade facilities and inventories.
Lastly, I want to touch on the 2004 convention. We?re really excited about the number of groups that will be participating in this event -- ASI, National Lamb Feeders Association, American Lamb Board, National Sheep Industry Improvement Center and Make It Yourself With Wool. We?re anticipating a large turnout and great discussion on myriad topics. Participants have their choice of not just one, but two tours, as well as optional workshops -- one on scrapie, the other in which you can experience being a wool topmaker for a day. Please join us for this informative, enjoyable event.