June 15, 2004
By Judy Malone
June 2004 -- Representatives from more than 40 sheep farms and ranches hailing from 17 states landed in Washington, D.C., April 28-30, 2004, under the direction of Janet Mawhinney, chair of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Legislative Action Council, to meet with their congressional delegations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Canadian and Mexican trade status for lamb products, mandatory price reporting re-authorization, minor use/minor species legislation and funding for the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center were key topics of discussion during this year's trip.
The annual barbecue was again a roaring success with many compliments going to Ranchers' Lamb of Texas for its donation of quality lamb chops. The record number of guests at the barbecue, more than 175, included such distinguished guests as Sens. Conrad Burns (R-MT), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Craig Thomas (R-WY); Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA), Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Bill Hawks and Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke.
The industry briefings with USDA included Dr. Ron DeHaven, administrator of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and Dr. John Clifford, acting deputy administrator of APHIS, discussing the forward movement of the Scrapie Eradication Plan as well as the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Progress is being made to resolve the current trade issues between the United States and Canada and Mexico. Clifford also informed the group that APHIS is confident it will reach its 4,000 sheep per month scrapie-slaughter surveillance goal by the end of this year, and that the consistent-state compliance review is being conducted.
Dr. Charles Lambert, deputy under secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, informed the group of more than 40 producers that the final rule on the redefinition of an importer is in the last clearance stage at USDA and should soon be published. He also told attendees that a great part of the success of the NAIS will depend on the quality of information USDA receives from those taking part in cooperative agreements.
The final regulations for the ewe-lamb retention program are with the Office of Management and Budget, reported Dr. James Butler, deputy under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. Work on the sheep industry risk-management tool is moving forward utilizing work previously completed for feeder cattle and swine.
Dale Moore, chief of staff for Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, stressed that there is no one identification system for all livestock. Industry is encouraged to continue to provide USDA with input to ensure the NAIS moves quickly and correctly.
Deputy Administrator for Wildlife Services William Clay reviewed the budget outlook for his area. Much work is being conducted in the area of wildlife disease surveillance as well as in trying to find publicly acceptable toxicants for use in predator control.
Chase Hibbard, representing the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC), discussed the work of the center to assist the industry by providing grants and loans.
ASI President Guy Flora commented that the sheep producers participating in this year's trip did an excellent job discussing the industry's priority issues with federal leaders.
"It was very evident at USDA that our request to re-open the Mexico border to lamb product exports was a top consideration among officials, and we hope for prompt resolution," said Flora. "Producers traveling on their own dime representing sheep states from coast-to-coast carried ASI board policies directly to national officials."