January 31, 2008
For More Information Contact: Peter Orwick
(303) 771-3500, ext. 33, or firstname.lastname@example.org Judy Malone
(303) 771-3500, ext. 35, or email@example.com Denver, Colo.
- January 31, 2008 - More than 400 sheep producers, feeders and affiliated businesses from across the nation descended on Las Vegas, Nev., for the U.S. sheep industry's annual convention, which ran from Jan. 23-26, 2008. Attendance once again surpassed that of the previous year as multiple sectors of the industry gathered during this annual event.
Joining the membership of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and the National Lamb Feeders Association (NLFA) were the American Lamb Board, American Sheep and Goat Center, Food and Fiber Risk Managers LLC (FFRM), National Livestock Producers Association, Western Range Association, ASI Women and contestants for the national Make It With Wool competition.
Brandon Willis, legislative assistant on agriculture for Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.), shared with participants the programs in the next Farm Bill that will affect the sheep industry. Inclusions consist of an increase in the base rate of the wool loan deficiency program, re-authorization of the federal sheep center, new tax credits for companies willing to develop pharmaceutical products for the health of U.S. sheep and a provision allowing livestock grazing for control of invasive species on Conservation Reserve Program ground.
Another important addition in the Farm Bill is the permanent disaster bill, which provides farmers and ranchers with a reliable and dependable program to protect against disasters each year rather than only one in every three years.
"The sheep industry is grateful for Sen. Baucus's leadership with the Farm Bill as the Senate legislation provides programs for sheep farms and ranches of all sizes and geographic locations," stated ASI President Burdell Johnson of North Dakota.
Willis complimented the industry by saying, "It is evident by the outcome that this industry worked cooperatively to communicate its needs during the re-writing of this Farm Bill."
The Senate Farm Bill also includes a disease research prioritization related to animal health issues, including infectious diseases of bighorn and domestic sheep under range conditions. Domestic sheep grazing has been seriously impacted by conflicts with bighorns despite the void of scientific findings on disease mechanisms. The hot topic of bighorns was evident during the convention culminating with a board presentation by Jim Logan, DVM, assistant state veterinarian for Wyoming. Logan led an in-depth discussion of the issues surrounding this crucial topic describing the many possible causes contributing to the die-offs in the bighorn population that have been occurring for decades, in many cases without any association with domestic sheep. It has been shown that contributing factors range from bacteria, viruses and parasites carried by numerous wildlife species to predators, stress, weather and habitat.
"We must continue to encourage collaborative efforts in research, surveillance, diagnostics, epidemiology and policy decisions if there is to be a resolution," concluded Logan. "This issue will be resolved using good sound science and working side-by-side with land managers to get to a result everyone can trust."
Wool company officials, Rick Honaker, Entrenos Inc., and Jason Bannowsky, Lempriere USA Inc., shared how wool buying and processing has changed over the last 10 years. According to Bannowsky, the biggest change to the industry in general is that 10 years ago, 75 percent of the U.S. wool clip was being consumed domestically with only 25 percent going to exports. Today, these statistics are reversed-75 percent of the clip is exported with 25 percent utilized domestically. In the 1990s, three combing plants consumed nearly 50 million pounds of greasy wool per year and now only one plant remains, using 10 million pounds of greasy wool annually.
Currency fluctuation represents a high risk for wool buyers. The change in rates from the time wool is purchased to when it is sold can be very different. In addition to currency risk for the wool buyer, some changes in sheep production have also led to increased contamination risks for exported wool. Contamination leads to claims against the wool buyer and, due to wool blending at the processor level, a small amount of contamination can result is a huge amount of non-usable wool product, hence costing the buyer far more than the price paid to the grower. Where polypropylene was the worst contamination in wool, kemp/hair has now moved into that position. As wool buyers, the advice given to growers was never mix hair with a wool clip. Dye-resistant fibers such as these dramatically limit any textile use of the product and make business overseas more difficult. If growers run both wool breeds and hair breeds, keep the animals totally separate to avoid any possibility of cross-over and to assist in building a superior reputation for U.S. wools.
Lamb feeders and processors reported to the organizations during the convention that while lamb supplies are current, the historic high prices for feed and fuel are the number one concern. Costs of gain on lambs due to the run up on all feed supplies combined with fewer acres of pasture and alfalfa as farmers convert to grain crops dealt uncertainty to lamb buyers and feeders this winter. Johnson was pleased to note that reports from feeders showed an increase in fed lambs in South Dakota, attributable to bankers willing to lend money for feeder lambs because the Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb (LRP-Lamb) price insurance was available this fall.
Johnson said, "A goal of securing LRP-Lamb was to increase credit opportunities from financial institutions. It is encouraging to hear our new pilot program is doing exactly that."
The ASI insurance agency, FFRM, and university officials conducted educational presentations during the convention on LRP-Lamb. As the new lambing season began on the West Coast in November and begins in earnest across the Midwest and farm flock areas, it is important that farmers and ranchers become informed on the use of this new risk management tool.
The board of directors re-elected the existing slate of officers to lead the organization for the next year--Burdell Johnson (N.D.), president; Glen Fisher (Texas), vice president; and Margaret Soulen Hinson (Idaho), secretary/treasurer. Also re-elected to the executive board were DA Harral (Texas) representing Region V, Angelo (Butch) Theos (Colo.) representing Region VI and Tom Watson (Ore.) representing the lamb feeders.
ASI is a national trade organization supported by 44 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of the more than 69,000 sheep producers.