March 15, 2004
Major Milestones in 2003
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is a federation of 41 state sheep associations representing sheep producers nationwide with a common goal to promote the well-being and profitability of the U.S. sheep industry. ASI is operated by volunteer producer leaders.
ASI and state sheep associations obtained lamb and wool assistance program for U.S. sheep producers. As of March 2003, more than $140 million in direct payments to producers had been made.
$18.85 Million for Retained Ewe-Lamb Program
Secretary Ann M. Veneman's decision to extend the Retained Ewe-Lamb Program was announced during the ASI Annual board of directors Meeting in Sacramento in January 2004. ASI and state sheep associations worked for 11 months to get this program authorized. The allocation of $18.85 million will allow for a one-year extension of the program. A total of 24 senators and nine representatives also sent letters to the Secretary supporting this extension. This is the most popular of the nine payment programs ASI has secured since 2000.
Wool Program and Livestock Compensation Program
Between the Wool Program and the Livestock Compensation Program, producers received more than $70 million in payments through March 2003.
Wool Program in the 2002 Farm Bill
- With the assistance of state sheep associations, ASI secured a wool program in the 2002 Farm Bill, which will run through the year 2007. This program marks the first payment program for the U.S. wool industry to be included in the Farm Bill since 1996. The wool marketing loan deficiency payment program has paid an average of 24 cents per pound greasy in the last 10 months. It also includes a payment for unshorn pelts.
Livestock Compensation Program
- This drought-relief program paid in either 2002 or 2003, depending on the county, and equated to $4.25 per head on sheep. The payments were of great assistance to those ranchers negatively affected by the drought.
American Wool Council
The 14-member American Wool Council oversees wool promotional activities - both domestic and international -- made possible by the Wool Trust Fund. The objective of the wool trust is to assist U.S. wool producers in improving the quality of the U.S. wool clip and to assist in the development and promotion of the wool market. The International Marketing Program, designed to expand the sale of underutilized wool into foreign markets, was exceptionally successful in 2003. Activities cultivated first-time purchases by a record 14 new buyers worldwide, while maintaining or expanding sales to the majority of new clients cultivated in recent years. More than 60 percent of this year's clip was exported, a value of approximately $22 million.
ASI, through its work with the American Wool Council, has focused on the United States' largest wool user - the U.S. military - to assess U.S. wool opportunities. Through development of new products, this contact has helped improve the average price of our wool this year. About one-fourth of the wool clip is purchased for use in military and government contracts.
Scrapie Eradication Program
ASI secured $15.5 million for the Scrapie Eradication Program in 2003 - a five-fold increase to ensure funds are available for this crucial effort. Indications are that the program will be funded at the $21 million level in the 2004 fiscal year budget. Although the incidence level of scrapie in the United States is relatively low, the fact that the disease occurs in this country makes it an impediment to the U.S. sheep industry's global competitiveness.
USDA Lamb Buy Program
The Domestic Lamb Meat Adjustment Assistance Program completed its last lamb roast buy in August of 2003. Total purchases under this agreement made between the USDA and ASI exceeded $22.8 million and nearly 6.1 million pounds of lamb roasts, assisting the turnaround of U.S. lamb prices.
ASI continues to successfully maintain a strong Wildlife Services Program, the federal partner in predator control nationwide. Funding for the next fiscal year has been increased to $72 million.
The ASI board of directors continued its strong support for a mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program during the annual meeting in January 2004. They believe COOL is in the best interest of sheep producers and consumers alike, and will provide a necessary mechanism for building demand for American lamb.
Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR)
ASI has been working with USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service to integrate changes in the data collection process for MPR of lamb. Therefore, ASI strongly supports the proposed changes to provide better market information particularly the inclusion of imported lamb meat and the definition of 'carlot lamb.'
Time and again, ASI is told that its publications, ASI Weekly Newsletter and Sheep Industry News, provide the most current and up-to-date industry information available to producers. Even local FSA offices rely on information and program details published by your national association. Your state membership entitles you to receive these valuable publications.
Continuing Initiatives for ASI
ASI is actively seeking a price protection program/insurance policy for the sheep industry. Funding assistance in the form of a grant has been obtained from the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center for the development of a risk-management tool for sheep producers and feeders.
International Wool Marketing
Global marketability is vital to the profitability of the wool industry. The wool council continues to look for new avenues to market U.S. wool.
ASI, with the assistance of USDA, continues to monitor both the northern and the southern borders to ensure maximum trading potential.
As a national animal identification plan moves from voluntary to mandatory, ASI is working with the diverse group of industry experts to develop a well-defined implementation phase-in plan for sheep identification.