President's Notes -- It is Policy, Not Politics That Counts
September 15, 2004
September 2004 -- In early August, President Bush signed the Minor Use/Minor Species Animal Health Act, the MUMS bill. Since the early 1990s ASI has been part of the coalition that has worked to pass this bill.
Countless hours have been spent on Capitol Hill by ASI legislative volunteers going door-to-door in the House and Senate office buildings talking to and lobbying congressmen for its passage. It has been discussed at every ASI Executive Board meeting since I became a board member and then an officer. It has been a long, hard push to reach the goal of passing the bill.
We didn't do it alone. We worked as part of a group of interested parties who all needed aid with their animal medications. Outside of their common goal the group was incredibly diverse. It represented everything from catfish farmers to sheep ranchers. We need to work with others. I think it is wise use of sheep industry resources to leverage our political influence with other groups when possible to accomplish legislation to include sheep provisions. Sometimes those 'others' will be people we generally disagree with politically. But as George Soares told us at our convention this year, "It is policy, not politics that count."
Speaking for ASI, I want to thank Fran Boyd of Meyers & Associates in Washington, D.C., who directed our successful lobbying efforts in a campaign that lasted many years longer than any of us expected. Our animal health resources in the industry, including ASI deputy director Paul Rodgers and the ASI Animal Health Committee, have kept the industry informed on the needs of the sheep industry in this arena including the availability of sheep products in other producing countries that could be beneficial to our business. These people know the difficulties of U.S. requirements to label products for sheep, even with the minor species designation.
The bill was first introduced in the Senate by Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and the House by Charles Pickering Jr. (R-MS). The House, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Ranking Member John D. Dingell (D-MI) joined the sponsors in moving the legislation. It was helped along by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Ranking Member Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
Some will wonder about the bill's impact on the sheep industry. It will add to the profit line of both large and small flock owners. This is ASI's ultimate goal -- to improve the profitability of the entire industry.
The facility cost-share program under our 201 trade assistance has helped everyone. The Sheep Production Handbook, recently updated and reprinted by ASI, if followed, will improve anyone's profit. The Livestock Compensation payment program provided some of the largest producer payments of any program ASI has initiated and helped all producers in drought areas. In 2000-2001, 20 percent of the emergency wool checks went to Navajo sheep producers. The programs on which ASI works benefit everyone in our industry.
However, our job is not yet finished. In addition to regulatory implementation of the bill, the tax incentives portion of the MUMS legislation, which was not included in this bill, is very important in order to see the maximum benefits to the sheep industry. We will begin working on this with the MUMS coalition during the next session of Congress. We have committed $30,000 and are encouraging coalition members to do likewise.