October 3, 2008
This week the U.S. Congress approved a five-year extension of the duty refunds, rebates and trust that comprise the wool fabric program as supported by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI).
ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick remarked that sheep producers will recognize the portion of the program that is the American Wool Trust, which the industry uses with domestic manufacturers for wool product development, market expansion and quality improvement.
"U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, championed the legislation, which was originally authorized in 2000 to resolve a major trade dispute over wool textiles between the United States and Canada," stated Orwick. "We appreciate the chairman's effort to ensure the trade issue was re-authorized and that domestic wool producers' concerns were addressed. The trust, while a very small piece of the wool package, is crucial to U.S. wool marketing and product development that supports producers".
ASI has been involved legislatively with the wool program since 1996 when it supported U.S. wool textile firms fighting an unfair trade loophole created by the North American Free Trade Agreement that allowed Canadian wool firms a huge advantage over American wool clothing companies. U.S. textile firms and ASI struggled for years on how to address the trade issue equitably. With an agreement eight years ago, the two parties have now cooperated to reauthorize the program five times.
"Even though Congress has approved extensions of this wool provision several times, media attention was heightened this time around as it was part of the large and controversial tax and financial stabilization bills," Orwick added. "If this wool textile program were allowed to lapse, a number of wool-clothing manufacturers and their employment base would be lost from the U.S. economy and have a further impact on American wool growers if firms were no longer available domestically to buy wool." Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33