Producer leaders from 18 states converged on the Hill this week to represent the collective interests of the American sheep industry. These leaders visited the offices of their U.S. Senators and Representatives for the opportunity to talk about the industry's top national issues.
Pursuing the continuation of the livestock protection program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Wildlife Services Agency was a priority as producers talked with their respective congressional offices.
Another topic of discussion included extending the language that prohibits the U.S. Forest Service from using funds to reduce domestic sheep grazing because of conflicts with bighorn sheep, unless the management is consistent with a state wildlife plan. This extension gives the industry and researchers the necessary time to finalize the implementation of promising vaccines to address disease issues, as well as strategies to implement best management practices to promote the coexistence of both species of sheep.
Another topic of discussion was communicating the importance of opening up at least one substantial export market for the sheep industry. Sheep have not had an export market opened up to them since the 2003 closure when bovine spongiform encephalopathy was detected in the United States in an imported cow and it is time to make this a priority.
"This annual visit to the Capitol keeps the issues of the sheep industry in front of our decision makers," commented Bob Benson (Ind.), co-chair of American Sheep Industry Association's Legislative Council. "Having a large number of producers all on the Hill at the same time helps us to accomplish the goal of communicating our key issues."
Issues throughout the industry vary depending on location and size; however, many things remain consistent across all operations. This annual event for producer leaders provides a chance to advocate the industry's united efforts to federal policy makers.