Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is seeking comments on an interim final rule that will establish the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC), consistent with the 2008 Farm Bill. Comments must be received by Sept. 21.
"The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is pleased to have the rules issued as interim as this provides a chance to get a board appointed and the program operational by the end of the year," stated Glen Fisher, ASI president. "ASI secured the Farm Bill authorization and sought for the center to be overseen by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of USDA. ASI, as well as the American Lamb Board, has programs that are already a part of AMS, and we are grateful that the agency was willing to take on the center to grant funds in the U.S. sheep industry."
NSIIC was initially authorized as part of the 1996 Farm Bill. The initial legislation included a provision that privatized NSIIC 10 years after its ratification or once the full appropriation of $50 million was disbursed. Subsequently, NSIIC was privatized on Sept. 30, 2006, 10 years after its ratification.
In 2008, NSIIC was re-established in the Farm Bill providing for $1 million in mandatory funding for fiscal year 2008 to remain available until expended, as well as authorization for appropriations in the amount of $10 million for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012. The legislation established a NSIIC revolving fund in the U.S. Department of the Treasury for making grants to eligible entities.
The purpose of the sheep center is to strengthen and enhance production and marketing of sheep or goat products in the United States through infrastructure development, business development, production, resource development and market and environmental research.
A board, appointed by the secretary, will be composed of seven voting members--four active producers of sheep, two finance and management members and one member with lamb, wool, goat or goat-product marketing expertise. Board members will serve a maximum of two three-year terms on a rotational schedule. USDA will make a separate announcement when it is ready to accept nominations.
"ASI will be commenting on the rule and working with AMS to get a board seated," concluded Fisher. "It is exciting to have the center in place as we finalize the plan for rebuilding the U.S. sheep inventory."
Complete details are available in the Federal Register at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-18096.htm.