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Denver, Colo. ? Energy was high at the 2006 American Sheep Industry Association (ASI)/National Lamb Feeders Association (NLFA) Annual Convention Jan. 25-28 in Mesa, Ariz. ASI celebrated 140 years as the industry?s national trade organization with attendance surpassing last year?s level with more than 375 participants registered.
?Once again, the sheep industry demonstrated a unified front with participation from six national associations including ASI, NLFA, the American Lamb Board, the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, the Western Range Association and the National Livestock Producers Association,? says ASI President Paul Frischknecht. ?Adding to the positive outlook prevalent during the meeting, the Sheep and Goats report confirmed an increase in sheep and lamb numbers for the second consecutive year, confirming producers? efforts to expand the size of the U.S. flock.?
The Sheep and Goats inventory report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s National Agricultural Statistics Service indicated that the all sheep and lamb count was up 2 percent over 2005 numbers. This is the second consecutive year, marking the first year-to-year increase since 1987 to 1988.
The convention schedule was filled with workshops and presentations covering multiple aspects relevant to the industry. A workshop devoted to prescribed grazing provided an historic overview and reviewed a variety of grazing projects implemented over the last decade involving sheep. There are implications that grazing activities could help stabilize the industry, reduce and diversify costs, and increase overall profitability for producers. The spread of noxious weeds and cheat grass, which is estimated to be expanding at a rate of 4,600 acres per day, gives clarity to the need and the scope of grazing projects. ASI is providing financial assistance to the development of a prescribed grazing handbook, which will provide education to producers, the public and resource managers as this effort gains momentum.
A panel of wool experts addressed the board of directors about the use of wool and wool products in the armed forces. The panel led the board through a scenario beginning with the producer and moving to the processor and finally to the Department of Defense (DOD). Panel experts stated the importance of the Berry Amendment in the continuation of the DOD to purchase U.S.-made clothing, textiles and individual equipment items. In 2006, a military battalion will be testing wool underwear to determine wear-ability and field sustainability.
A session dedicated to animal identification stressed the importance of a program that is both workable and affordable. The industries participation in the National Scrapie Eradication Program has resulted in the sheep industry having more premises and animals identified than any other commodity group. In addition to the current rules, the sheep identification working group strongly recommends the inclusion of group-lot identification when groups of animals move through commerce.
Insuring the implementation of a Livestock Risk Protection product continues to be of great significance for the sheep industry. A letter signed by 19 U.S. Senators, along with language in the 2006 Appropriations Bill, urged the initiation of a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of lamb-price insurance for all-size operations and geographic locations. The team working on the project will again meet with the Federal Crop Insurance Commission (FCIC) on Feb. 15 to address the commissions concerns in hopes of receiving approval for the product.
Congressional failure to renew the mandatory price reporting legislation led to much discussion about the lack of marketing information being reported. Price reporting under the voluntary program has decreased to such low levels that many reports can no longer be published.
The American Lamb Board highlighted its strategic initiatives for the past year. Raising awareness of domestic lamb, increasing consumption, and expanding markets and market share were the top priorities of the activities completed throughout the campaigns.
Some of the major policy additions or amendments addressed by the board included:
The board of directors welcomed back into membership sheep producers from Florida.
New regional representatives on the executive board include: Bill Taliaferro (Wyo.), Region IV; Angelo ?Butch? Theos (Colo.), Region VI; and Tom Watson (Ore.), NLFA.
?Industry leaders have committed huge resources to incentives and national programs to grow the U.S. sheep business. Cooperation among the various sheep organizations and commitments to continue joint efforts will keep the industry moving in a positive direction,? concludes Frischknecht.
ASI is a national trade organization supported by 43 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of nearly 67,000 sheep producers.