February 8, 2008
February 8, 2008 - President of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), Burdell Johnson, met with the newly confirmed secretary of agriculture, Ed Schafer, this week just prior to Schafer being sworn into office.
"The progress of the Farm Bill was a topic of discussion, and it is clear that he wants to do what is right for agriculture," said Johnson. "As a fellow North Dakotan, Schafer understands rural life and the opportunities as well as the challenges that come along with this lifestyle."
Johnson requested the assistance of the department in helping to resolve a serious competition issue within the sheep industry. The Sheep Genome Sequencing Consortium is an international effort to lay the foundation to map the sheep genome. Along with the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, France and Kenya have been active in funding this project. It was announced in January that the sheep genome mapping has been completed, and it is now possible for the group to start identifying markers to identify valuable traits in sheep.
With the U.S. Department of Agriculture's competitive grants program at Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the industry asked that sheep genomics be a priority. It would be a serious set-back if American producers were locked out of the advancements in productivity and disease control, which are anticipated to be available through the continued funding of this international consortium.
Johnson expressed the appreciation for the support the sheep industry has received from the department in key priority areas from Wildlife Service's assistance with predator management and the eradication of scrapie at Veterinary Services to Agricultural Marketing Services' lamb and wool promotion programs.
A follow-up visit has been requested for the secretary to meet with sheep producers when they travel to Washington, D.C., in May.