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Denver, Colo. - Feb. 3, 2009 - The 20th anniversary of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) was marked by another record setting attendance at its annual convention. More than 420 sheep producers, feeders and affiliated businesses from across the nation gathered in sunny San Diego, Calif., to celebrate ASI's 20th Anniversary ~ Transition from Tradition, from Jan. 21-24, 2009.
Joining the membership of ASI and the National Lamb Feeders Association (NLFA) were the American Lamb Board (ALB), American Sheep and Goat Center, Food and Fiber Risk Managers LLC, National Livestock Producers Association, Western Range Association, ASI Women and contestants for the national Make It With Wool competition.
Three bus loads of participants took a day to travel to the Imperial Valley to experience the agricultural diversity the valley has to offer. They visited with many of the sheepmen who host well over a 150,000 feeder lambs in the valley every winter. The valley has been an important part of grazing lambs to market weight for decades.
A research symposium was added to this year's events. Eight researchers from universities across the country had the opportunity to present research findings and interact with the very producers who utilize the information. Breeding objectives, nutritional strategies, enhanced techniques of artificial insemination, effective ked control and enhancing the competitiveness of wool were just a few of the topics discussed at this half-day event.
A bright s pot for the U.S. wool market is the military. The government continues to fill a pipeline that had gotten low during this time of war. Between changing the colors of uniforms to an additional emphasis on dress uniforms, the military business has increased considerably over the last five years, and it is purchasing a large quantity of wools that range from 19 micron to 22 micron.
However, there is uncertainty in the wool market today. This was the message from the Wool Council and Wool Roundtable discussions. The international financial crisis has caused great fluctuation in the value of currencies and since much of the wool worldwide is purchased in U.S. currency, wool buyers seem to be slower to purchase wools until currencies are more stable and additional orders from retail and apparel manufacturers are committed. The lower worldwide raw-wool production, however, does help to offset some of the downturn in purchasing.
Paint and hair remain the top concerns among buyers of the U.S. wool clip. The question was raised in regard to the existence of a completely scourable paint since more paint is being seen after scouring. Paint contamination can be minimized by following the directions on the paint can and not changing the composition of the paint with heat and other additives. Also, keeping all hair separate from wool is imperative. Producers can give themselves a marketing advantage by taking the time to properly prepare their clip. Quality clip care will be important in this tight wool market as buyers have several options.
Gary Williams, Ph.D., Texas A&M, reported to the board of directors (BOD) on the effect of lamb promotion to the consumption of lamb. Through an analysis of production, product sales and prices, he was able to demonstrate that the programs implemented by ALB boost the demand of U.S. lamb and that the promotions tend to act more as branded advertising for U.S. lamb than as generic by reducing the market share of the competitors products. Building loyalty to U.S.-produced lamb is another key benefit of the industry-funded promotion program.
As part of a legislative panel, senate staff from the offices of Sens. Baucus (Mont.), Enzi (Wyo.) and Johnson (S.D.) shared the progress of the new Farm Bill implementation. In the upcoming months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make programs available such as the forage disaster program and the livestock indemnity program, both priorities of ASI. The success of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Prevention Act, which is intended to prohibit the importation of meat and livestock from the Patagonia region in Argentina, was hailed. ASI's support of this important legislation helped to bring this result and ASI is committed to support this act in the new Congress.
To further support the FMD Prevention Act, the ASI membership brought forward new policy urging USDA to require any country where regionalization is employed for the purposes of exportation of animal or animal products into the United States to adhere to specific criteria. Verification of risk-mitigation measures, periodic updates to risk assessments, identifiable geographic boundaries, controlled animal movement and the enforcement of biosecurity measures were a few of the mentioned conditions.
The BOD also passed a new biosecurity policy where it recommended that U.S. sheep producers develop biosecurity plans for their operations and encouraged producers to be active with local animal issues committees.
Livestock guardian animals have long been used to protect sheep from predation. With increasing growth and development in rural areas and added recreational use of federal lands, conflict between these animals and non-agricultural residents can be more frequent. ASI established another new policy to work with USDA to address potential conflicts and to develop and deliver a consistent educational message to the public about the purpose of guardian animals and offer methods to minimize conflicts with these animals while working with guardian animal owners to encourage best management practices.
Other policy was amended to continue to oppose the introduction of bighorn sheep into areas where domestic sheep grazing is permitted. Further scientifically based research is necessary to determine the effect of separation between domestic and bighorn sheep. Further research must also be conducted to explore the multi-causal nature of disease and death in bighorn sheep such as range conditions, transplant policy, nutrition mineral deficiency, predation, adverse weather conditions, observed density dependent decrease in reproduction and increase in mortality through well-designed epidemiological studies. Mitch Silvers from the office of Sen. Crapo (Idaho) joined collaborative discussions of sheep producers as well as representatives from the Nez Pearce Tribe and wild sheep enthusiasts.
The BOD also voted that ASI seek additional section 32 funds for a USDA lamb purchase program; to contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in support of maintaining special sheepherder provisions of the H-2A program; to urge state and federal land agencies to recognize the historic use and economic contribution of the sheep industry to local communicates before limiting or altering grazing allotments; and to monitor the newly formed USDA Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets to seek opportunities that enhance the American sheep industry.
The board of directors elected a new slate of officers to lead the organization for the next year-Glen Fisher (Texas), president; Margaret Soulen Hinson (Idaho), vice-president; and Clint Krebs (Ore.), secretary/treasurer. Also elected to the executive board were Tom Colyer (Mass.) representing Region I; Will Getz, Ph.D. (Ga.), representing Region II; Bob Benson (Ind.) representing Region III; Burton Pfliger (N.D.) representing Region IV; Gary McGehee (Texas) representing Region V; and Art Swannack (Ore.) representing Region VIII.
ASI is a national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of the more than 70,500 sheep producers.