As we move into the new year, it seems appropriate to review and reflect on the events from 2008. Although it is difficult to choose just 10 top sheep industry-related stories from last year, the following is our attempt to do so.
2008 Farm Bill Includes Sheep - Wide-reaching sheep programs were included in this Farm Bill including an increase in the wool loan deficiency payment loan rate from $1 to $1.15 beginning with the 2010 crop year; re-authorization of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center with mandatory funding of $1 million; approval of interstate movement of state inspected lamb meat; the inclusion of a permanent disaster assistance program to provide timely assistance to livestock producers for losses incurred from natural disasters; approval to graze sheep for control of invasive species on conservation reserve program acres; and country-of-origin-labeling became mandatory.
Wool Trust Extended - In October, the American Sheep Industry Association's (ASI) Executive Director Peter Orwick reported that the U.S. Congress approved a five-year extension of the duty refunds, rebates and trust that comprise the wool fabric program. The legislation continues an industry agreement over a trade battle of the 1990s and includes the American Wool Trust, which ASI industry uses with domestic manufacturers for wool product development, market expansion and quality improvement.
Imports from Argentina Derailed - U.S. senators helped ASI prevent the importation of livestock from Argentina until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can certify that Argentina is free of foot-and-mouth disease. Early in the year, USDA had proposed to allow millions of pounds of Argentine lamb meat and sheep imports to the United States.
Sheep Study Released - The National Academy of Sciences released its study, "Changes in the Sheep Industry in the United States: Making the Transition from Tradition." The study will serve as a seminal document on the sheep industry for years to come. ASI secured the authorization and funding through Congress in 2006 to conduct the study.
Battle for Use of M-44s and 1080 - ASI continues to seek the final decision on the registration of sodium cyanide used in M-44s and Compound 1080 used in Livestock Protection Collars to keep these predator control methods available. Animal rights groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency over two years ago to halt the registration of these products.
Lamb Purchase Program - USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has purchased more than $1.1 million in lamb products as part of a $2 million program secured by ASI in the spring of 2008.
LRP-Lamb Success - The Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb insurance product concluded its first full year as a pilot program with sales of nearly 700,000 lambs covered under the program.
ALB Referendum Announced - USDA announced that the American Lamb Board referendum will be held Feb. 2-27, 2009. The rule under which the lamb checkoff was approved requires a vote three years after the implementation and again prior to the seven-year mark, which is 2009. The 2005 vote was approved with an 80 percent approval.
Mandatory Price Reporting Back - The U.S. Congress finally re-authorized the USDA Livestock Mandatory Reporting program, which became effect July 15. Prices are once again available from importers who refused to voluntarily submit information during the three-year lapse of statutory authority.
Grazing Rights Challenged - The bighorn sheep and domestic sheep disease conflict remains an issue. Lawsuits and policy changes have forced sheep from grazing allotments by citing, and drawing conclusions from, incomplete and sometimes flawed research and data.