June 2005 -- Every spring, we, as members of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), take time out of our hectic lambing and farming schedules to make a trip to Washington, D.C. The purpose of these trips is to be recognized and heard by legislators, who determine policies that greatly affect each one of our businesses. I have always believed it is vital to the success of our industry to have a voice in Washington, D.C.
We also take this opportunity to visit with officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the latest information about important programs in service to the sheep industry. Wildlife Services officials are always on our meeting list, as is the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on programs such as the Scrapie Eradication Program. Depending on travel schedules of Foreign Agricultural Service officials, we visit with either the secretary or undersecretaries regarding status reports on trade, market reporting and export programs.
The third goal of the trip is to provide additional promotion of American lamb and wool with our annual American Lamb Barbeque.
This year was no different; members from across the United States joined forces to speak with legislators about the issues facing the U.S. sheep industry. Those issues included: mandatory price reporting, livestock risk insurance for sheep, Wildlife Services (WS) funding increase for livestock protection, the H-2A program, tariff reduction of nylon wool packs and priorities in the Farm Bill, to name a few.
We voiced our support for the re-authorization of the Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) Act for livestock. The information gathered because of the MPR Act is essential for continuation of lamb and lamb meat reporting in the United States and for the development of a Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) Program for sheep.
Federal funding available for livestock predation management by the Western Region Wildlife Services (WS) program has remained stagnant over the past few years. In fact, their base funding has increased only 5.6 percent in the past 10 years, while cooperative funding has increased 110 percent. Producers expressed the vital role WS plays in the protection of our sheep and lambs, as it is difficult for us to implement our own predation-management programs because of changes in federal and state laws and regulations.
For more than 50 years, our industry has successfully used sheep herders from foreign countries under the H-2A program. The ASI Board of Directors approved policy this winter that ASI coordinate with other labor and sheep organizations to maintain important sheepherder provisions in upcoming labor legislation. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has introduced legislation referred to as AgJOBS that would continue the authorization of the sheepherder provisions.
Another policy approved by the ASI Board is to reduce the tariff on the nylon wool packs we bring to the U.S. for wool packaging on the farm/ranch. ASI worked with leaders in the U.S. House and the woolsacks company to secure bill HR1851, that would reduce the 7-percent ad valorem tariff on the packs, thereby saving tens of thousands of dollars for U.S. sheep producers. During our spring trip legislative meetings, we advised representatives to co-sponsor this legislation introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
Scrapie Eradication Program funding, Endangered Species Act legislation and trade restrictions on sheep to Canada were also discussed during the week.
To date, we have two major priorities in the next Farm Bill. They are the loan deficiency program (LDP) for wool and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC). We asked our legislators to re-authorize the wool LDP at a $1.20 per lb. base-loan rate and to re-authorize the NSIIC, as it provides much needed financial support to business ventures tied to the lamb and wool industries.
Without our volunteer members making the trip to Washington, D.C., programs, the ones I mentioned above, would not be available to our producers. I want to thank each member who attended this year?s legislative trip, as you helped make it a success.
Arizona: Duane Dobson; California: John Cubiburu, Frankie Iturriria, Greg Ahart, Stephen Elgorriaga, Emily Robidart, Jon Amparan, Lesa Eidman, Joanne Nissen, Louis Iturriria; Iowa: Stan Potratz; Idaho: Stan Boyd, Henry and Kathy Etcheverry, Margaret Soulen Hinson, Jeff and Cindy Siddoway; Maine: Brant Miller; Maryland: Joan Hobbs; Michigan: Bill Blake; Minnesota: Bob Padula; Montana: Bob Gilbert, Joe and Aggie Helle, Chase Hibbard; Nebraska: Dwight and Sharon Tisdale; New Mexico: Tom and Pam Runyan, BJ Brock; North Carolina: Bill Sparrow; North Dakota: Burdell Johnson; Ohio: Guy Flora, Roger High; Oregon: Cleve and Ellie Dumdi, Paul Lewis; Pennsylvania: Janet Mawhinney; Texas: Sandy Wittley, Henrye Evans, Glen Fisher, Ray Willoughby, Chico and Ginnie Denis, DA Harrel, Steve Salmon; Utah: Larry Williams, Dennis Richins, Clark Willis; Virginia: Leo Tammi; Washington: Art Swannack; West Virginia: Joe Aucremanne; Wyoming: Bryce and Barbara Reece, Lisa Cunningham, Frank and Janet Philp, Sandy Snider, Bob and Cindy Innes, Jerry Diltz.