October 2004 -- On behalf of the Executive Board and officers, and speaking for the Wool Council, I want to thank the directors for their unanimous approval of the 2004-2005 budget and dues assessments. This approval shows we are all working together and our Executive Board is reading correctly the signals it receives from the membership of ASI. The unity in our industry is a wonderful thing to experience.
In an election year like this the people from inside the beltway in Washington fan out across the country to talk to voters. This is a tremendous opportunity for all of us to speak with them about the problems and successes of the sheep industry. During August (county and state fair season in the Midwest), I was able to speak with Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He remembered me from an office visit that Leo Tammi and I had made to him during the legislative trip this spring. We had a good conversation about the upcoming referendum on the lamb checkoff. We also discussed what could be done about the grading of imported carcasses and why mandatory price reporting was important to the sheep industry.
At the state fair I was able to address several questions to Secretary of Agriculture Ann Venneman, including some on the checkoff and the ewe-lamb retention program. I later attended a listening session on animal ID conducted by Under Secretary Bill Hawks and Dr. Valerie Reagan. Under Secretary Hawks assured me that all the questions I had asked the secretary and the congressman had ended up on his desk and he had already sent answers to Denver. With Lyndon Irwin attending an Animal ID session in Missouri and others doing so around the country, I am sure we are starting to get our points across.
We all need to take advantage of the opportunities that are available in an election year. If you have such an opportunity, please check with Peter Orwick to see what should be mentioned in your conversations. Things are changing rapidly in D.C. Also if you can report back on how the meetings went, it will be very helpful.
Talking to Washington does work. ASI and many of our state organizations have been urging AMS to modify Mandatory Price Reporting. The Final Rule was published Sept. 2, 2004, establishing a new threshold for quantities of imported lamb to be reported. So beginning Nov. 1,2004, prices on imported wholesale lamb cuts will be publicly available. This has been a top issue for ASI for at least three years and is another success for our membership brought about by the leadership of our staff in Denver and Washington and the members? hard work in Washington.
We need to use such success to build our effort to pass the lamb referendum. As you know the Lamb Board cannot advocate a "Yes" vote. ASI can! We will need to pass this referendum on both producer numbers and sheep numbers. It will take a concerted effort from all of us. Our successes in D.C. have shown that we know how to present a winning case. If your state has not yet submitted names of volunteer leaders to your regional representative, please do so as soon as possible. We would also like to see the state organizations themselves formally state their support for the "Yes" vote.
We have shown in the past that we have political strength. Let?s use that strength to build a better industry. Passing the checkoff referendum to promote American lamb is the most important thing we can do to guarantee our strength in the future.