August 4, 2006
August 4, 2006 - The Agriculture Committees of both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are conducting field hearings across the country to begin the process of reviewing the 2002 Farm Bill which is set to expire in 2007. The hearings give producers the opportunity to provide feedback about what aspects of the 2002 Farm Bill are working well and what aspects could be modified.
At the House Committee hearing in Wall, S.D., on Monday, sheep producer Steve Clements of Philips, S.D., provided testimony regarding the sheep industry, representing the more than 2,000 sheep producers in his state. Clements is the vice president of the South Dakota Sheep Growers and comes from a family that has been in the sheep business since 1908.
Clements remarked that during the span of the 2002 Farm Bill, the sheep industry experienced many accomplishments, including: an 80-percent passage in a national referendum for the continuation of the American Lamb Board checkoff program; improved international competition for American wool with more than 60 percent of the annual production now being exported to eight or more international markets; two consecutive years of growth in sheep inventory numbers, 2004 and 2005; and continued advancements in wool product development.
The committee was encouraged by Clements to re-authorize the wool Loan Deficiency Program (LDP) at a base loan rate of $1.20 per pound in order to provide the benefit intended by the program. Research and testimony provided for the 2002 Farm Bill supported this rate to provide the best opportunity for all producers to participate in the program.
The industry actively participates in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Services programs and requested inclusion of the Foreign Market Development, Market Access Program and Quality Samples Program in the bill.
Clements also urged the committee to support the re-authorization of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center. Since its establishment in 1996, the center has provided loans and grants for business ventures to strengthen the sheep business.
A push for aggressive reform of Europe's agriculture programs and support of a retained ewe-lamb program in the next Farm Bill rounded out the comments provided by Clements.
Clements echoed the words of some of the other presenters when he reported on the severe seven-year drought being experienced in South Dakota.
"While I realize this is not an issue for the next Farm Bill, it is certainly something that the committee should be aware of and consider disaster assistance for all parts of South Dakota's agriculture production," concluded Clements.
Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill hearings have been scheduled for Aug. 15 in Redmond, Ore.; Aug. 16 in Grand Island, Neb., where Dwight Tisdale, a Nebraska sheep producer will provide testimony; Aug. 17 in Great Falls, Mont., where Betty Sampsel, president of the Montana WoolGrowers will testify; and Sept. 8 in Lubbock, Texas. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33