March 15, 2004
Peter Orwick, Executive Director, American Sheep Industry Assoc., Inc.
Industry Attitude "Positive"
Mar/Apr 2004 -- 'Attitude' in the U.S. sheep industry is as positive as I have seen it for quite some time. As the national trade organization, ASI can take some of the credit for the strong revenue side of the picture for U.S. sheep producers and lamb feeders.
ASI has delivered nine separate payment programs in three years. Each one required a lot of time and effort by association staff and leaders. ASI typically spends about a year on the legislation side of these programs and a year-and-a-half assisting with their implementation. We provide a great deal of industry marketing and production information to the Department of Agriculture involved in the delivery of the programs, and address hundreds of producer calls and questions each time a new program is rolled out. There is an expense each year in meetings, conference calls, mailings and press releases, but each time a grower or feeder fills out an application at a Farm Service Agency office, we are proud to recognize the important role we played in making that piece of paper possible. And at the end of the day, we've kept more sheep operations in business, and that's positive for everyone, from the shearer to the trucker to the processor.
Stabilizing sheep industry numbers and actually helping the industry grow has been a personal goal I hoped we could accomplish this past year, and we did. As Fran Boyd of Meyers & Associates and the ASI staff will attest, we operate low key ? devoid of large press conferences and constant horn blowing. I prefer to keep our focus clear, in quiet-but-persistent pursuit of programs that benefit industry members.
As demonstrated in our annual Wool Trust report to Congress, ASI is a wool outfit. About 90 percent of the association's budget is spent on wool-oriented activities. We cost-share on some programs with various entities. One such example is our work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on the scrapie eradication program.
A question I have been asked numerous times is "Can ASI cost-share with the recently established American Lamb Board (ALB)?" ASI provided some interim staff time and expertise nearly a year ago as the board was being seated, but we wrapped those few projects up last spring and turned over free of charge all ASI proprietary lamb products for the ALB's use as long as it wishes. (ASI leadership did, however, require that the ALB return their use at the point it no longer needs them.)
We split small expenses of lamb and wool market analysis and reporting and distribution. Wool funding is used to cover part of the expense and lamb checkoff funds part, and I don't expect change to that role in the future.
The year 2003 represented a major undertaking with the ASI board of directors approving policy to seek an extension of the retained ewe-lamb program. It took 11 months and a great deal of congressional support but was delivered. Another board action of 2003 was the directive that ASI meet with foreign lamb producers. This effort became the Tri Lamb Summit and involved two international meetings, briefing sessions and a number of volunteer leaders. The ASI leaders helped shift the staff coordination role to another country for 2004, which thankfully put less expense on ASI this year.
For 2004, ASI will address ongoing and new issues, such as the implementation of a new foundation for funding programs, health issues such as scrapie and animal identification, informing industry members about the lamb referendum that will take place this year, and further development of the exciting opportunity with a risk-management or insurance product for the industry. We also have a priority of seeking an extension of the wool fabric provisions including the American Wool Trust. On that topic, I wish to mention the leadership role of Bob Gilbert, executive director of the Montana Woolgrowers Association, who has worked with me regularly since 1997 on the wool fabric issue. As with all the state association executives, I consider them partners with ASI staff in working on national initiatives. The state associations that provide a state executive as well as pay the dues to ASI generously help move national issues to reality.
ASI re-vamped the industry's national Web site this year, updated and reprinted the Sheep Production Handbook and re-initiated the ASI awards program. Alongside the continuing positive impacts of the wool programs, ASI spent six months reopening the ewe trade to Mexico as of September.
Lastly, let's not forget to celebrate what we do for a living - feeding and clothing America. Also remember that the American wool you produce is utilized in the making of dress uniforms for members of the U.S. military. This is something of which you should be very proud.