November 2004 -- The American Wool Council will launch Certified Wool Programs for the 2005 marketing season to improve the quality and reputation of U.S. wool, reports Bob Padula, raw wool quality consultant for the American Sheep Industry Association.
Padula says the programs will be voluntary whereby sheep shearers and growers can self-certify that they will abide by the ?Code of Practice for Preparation of U.S. Wool Clips.?
?The goal is to highlight U.S. wool that has been prepared properly for the wool trade thereby increasing the reputation of American wool and its value to end users,? Padula said. ?This in turn should increase the demand for U.S. wool and market outlets.?
Padula says the initial focus will be to reduce the amount of contamination in American wool by polypropylene and colored fibers. Another focus for the program is that of improving the processing predictability of American wool through classing, objective measurement and description of product.
The Code will be used as the standard protocol to follow for the program at all levels, Padula notes. Within the Code, the preparation steps for improving wool quality are an easy-to-understand outline of steps the industry can take to improve wool quality.
This material is available through state sheep producer organizations, wool warehouses, wool pools and state Extension sheep specialists.
Padula says growers and shearers will be asked to fill out and sign a check list covering the requirements.
?There is no statutory body in the United States to regulate the wool industry,? Padula said. ?Therefore, the program will be voluntary and will need consensus of the American wool trade to be adopted. There will be a set of checks and balances to make sure that the standards are met, but it will rely on the integrity of those involved to make the program successful.?
At the recommendation of the ASI Shearing Task Force, ASI has updated its database of shearers and will provide the shearers with information on the certified program and an opportunity for shearers to become certified shearing crews.
Padula says shearers will be provided with a self-certification form which they can sign and return to ASI indicating they will abide by guidelines of the Code. By self-certifying, crews will be listed on the ASI Web site and promoted as an ?ASI certified shearing crew.?
The guidelines for shearing crews, which are still being finalized, include methods for reducing wool contamination; proper packaging and labeling of different wool types; the utilization of only new and approved packing materials; and shearing in a manner that allows for proper preparation of wool for the market.
The program for certifying the U.S. wool clip will be split into two sections: One for growers to improve wool quality and a second program for growers who are willing to take extra steps in preparation of their clip.
In order to produce a ?U.S. certified-choice wool clip,? participants basically must utilize certified shearers; reduce wool contamination; and package and label wool properly.
Padula says the U.S. Certified-Premium Wool Clip program is directed at wool and dual purpose breeds of sheep where table skirting will improve the marketability of the clip and the volume of wool is sufficient to allow for classing by an ASI Certified Wool Classer on an individual farm or ranch.
Other requirements for the program are being reviewed and discussed by wool industry leaders.
Padula says this particular program will require that the marketing agency or warehouse will ensure that the wool is of the highest quality and deserves the U.S. Certified-Premium Wool Clip designation.
ASI?s Wool Council also will conduct programs for warehouses and the wool marketing infrastructure on proper sampling of wool. Forms and an information sheet explaining the details of the programs will be available in December through state sheep associations, warehouses, wool pools, Extension sheep specialists and the ASI Web site, www.sheepusa.org.