In letters to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (Okla.), the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) offered Farm Bill priorities to be considered in conference that are most beneficial to America's sheep farmers and ranchers.
"ASI's 46 state sheep producer associations, along with the National Lamb Feeders Association, joined ASI requesting that a Farm Bill be completed this year," said Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. "Our Farm Bill programs are very modest when compared to the larger scope of federal agriculture spending, however, these programs provide our growers with the only risk management tools available to them as well as funding for competitive grants."
The Livestock Forage Program and the Livestock Indemnity Program proved critical for producers in the Intermountain West and Northern Plains that lost tens of thousands of sheep in the sever spring and winter storms of 2008 and 2009. The sheep industry also supports the inclusion of an indemnity for sheep losses caused by federally re-introduced or protected predators and asks that the conference retain this language.
"The 2008 Farm Bill disaster programs are extremely important to livestock producers," continued Orwick. "The absence of these programs over the last two years, during a 100-year drought, emphasized why these programs are so critical to our industry."
A strong crop insurance component is supported by the sheep industry. The Livestock Risk Protection Program for lamb is the only federal risk-management program available to sheep producers and its continuation is also encouraged.
The creation of the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program contained in the Senate passed Farm Bill helps to improve industry infrastructure, resource development and innovative approaches to long-term industry needs and comes at a time when industry infrastructure expansion is essential. The Senate approved start-up funds of $1.5 million is applauded along with language that sets the administrative funding cap at 10 percent.
According to Bob Leer, chair of ASI's Legislative Action Council, "America's sheep farmers and ranchers agree that a long-term Farm Bill would have a positive impact in the country."
Copies of the letters are available on ASI's website under Farm Bill Priorities at www.sheepusa.org/ASI_Positions.