May 4, 2007
May 4, 2007 - "The sheep industry could very well be the first meat sector to obtain industry-wide, 48-hour traceability," stated Bruce Knight, under secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Marketing and Regulatory Programs. This is the message he relayed to more than 50 producers from across the country that spent the morning visiting with representatives from departments of the USDA.
Knight stressed that common-sense solutions are going to be the resolution to producers voluntarily registering their premises. In fact, through a close working relationship between the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), there is no reason why a common-sense approach can't be found to join together the scrapie flock identification number with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) premises identification number. ASI has specific policy stating that the NAIS must recognize the scrapie identification system numbers.
"I am very committed to making this happen," concluded Knight.
Knight also assured the attendees that he is committed to making sure that the sheep industry is given the same opportunities as beef has been given to get lamb back into the Japanese markets.
In an unscheduled visit by Chuck Connors, deputy secretary of agriculture, he stressed to the industry that this new Farm Bill would provide for a long-term future for farm and ranch families. The plan USDA sent to Capitol Hill is very proactive and provides funding for areas such as energy, conservation and beginning farmers. The plan provides for fairness and equity across multiple agricultural areas.
Lloyd Day, administrator for Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), informed attendees that it could be the end of the year before the rulemaking process is completed and mandatory price reporting is again in place.
Two other topics Day discussed were the American Lamb Board and the frozen lamb purchase program. The best way to assist the American Lamb Board is to find ways to increase the consumption of lamb, providing increased revenue for the program.
When asked about future frozen lamb purchases, Day indicated that AMS was holding a teleconference in the afternoon to discuss the options on different cuts of meat to purchase to be able to utilize the program. AMS has until Sept. 30, 2007, to use the funds that have been obligated for this program.
With a decrease in budgetary dollars from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2008, APHIS may not be able to expand the National Scrapie Eradication Program surveillance activities, but it does plan to improve the targeting efforts and still move the program forward. The numbers of new cases of scrapie as well as the number of infected flocks have both decreased since 2004. Andrea Morgan, DVM, associate deputy administrator for regional operations, APHIS, also stated that in the very near future, an interim rule would be published that would remove Vermont from the list of states consistent with the scrapie program.
Floyd Gaibler, deputy under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service, explained that he believes this is the most comprehensive Farm Bill sent to the hill since the mid-1980s.
"This bill puts us (USDA) on a pathway to prioritize funding for the next Farm Bill," stated Gaibler.
Bill Clay, deputy administrator for Wildlife Services, offered a straightforward message. "As an agency and an industry, we are required to work smarter with the constraints the budget cuts are imposing. It doesn't mean we can not get the job done, it just means we will have to utilize technology to reduce costs," he said.
The delisting of wolves and the use of new control methods for the coyote population were also topics of interest to producers. The agency continues to look to utilize environmentally friendly control options for the management of predators.
The key to the success of the Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb (LRP-Lamb) product is its marketability. Producers must participate to ensure the long-term existence of this product for the industry. Bill Murphy, deputy administrator for insurance services, Risk Management Agency, said the pilot, which is still on schedule for roll-out this summer, is considered large since it covers 27 states.
Arlen Lancaster, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), continued the discussions about the upcoming Farm Bill and detailed the conservation portion of the proposal. The primary goal for NRCS, a technical agency that gathers information to then share with landowners, is to consolidate the programs so they are easier to use.
"ASI has an active partnership with USDA on the lamb, wool, health, grazing and predator management fronts, so the meetings are useful to update the industry and department officials," said Burdell Johnson, ASI president. Staff Contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33