BLM Publishes Final Environmental Impact Study
August 2005 -- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on June 16 the availability of a final environmental impact study that concludes upcoming grazing regulation changes will produce long-term benefits for public rangelands. An official notice of the study?s availability was published in the Federal Register on Friday, June 17.
The final environmental impact study, posted at www.blm.gov/grazing, analyzes the impact of the upcoming grazing regulation revision, including its ecological, cultural, social and economic effects. More specifically, the study examines the impact of a grazing management option that tracks with the provision of the upcoming grazing regulation changes, as well as the effect of two other management alternatives.
?This environmental impact analysis underscores grazing?s role as a vital use of public lands in the rural West,? said Rebecca Watson, assistant secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals. ?The revisions will improve BLM?s management of public lands ranching.?
The new grazing regulations, which were established in July, seek to:
In his letter to President Bush, Bill Hawks expressed his distinct privilege of serving him and his administration as under secretary of agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. He resigned his position on June 6, 2005.
?Bill has agreed to continue to serve in the coming months as we identify a replacement and, I thank him for his service and wish him well in all his future endeavors,? comments Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.
Hawks outlined some of the areas where great progress has been made during the past four years in the areas of international trade, animal and human health safeguards, and the progress of the National Animal Identification System. He closed with well wishes to the Administration, Secretary Johanns and the department of agriculture, and the farmers and ranchers that make-up American agriculture.
?Hawks, known for his ?Working Together Works? approach to problem solving, is a great friend of the sheep industry and we appreciated working with him in this key position,? states Paul Frischknecht, president of the American Sheep Industry Association.
Sheep and Cattle Producers Unite
In a united effort, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), the Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen?s Beef Association (NCBA), along with 15 state sheep associations, requested support from Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) for an additional $9 million to be appropriated for western states livestock-protection programs.
?One of the key programs for a healthy sheep and cattle industry in America is the livestock-protection program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service?s (APHIS) Wildlife Service (WS),? stated the correspondence to the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies.
The value of livestock lost to predators and predator control costs are the major expenses of livestock production. More than 250,000 sheep and nearly 150,000 cattle are lost to predators each year. The WS livestock-protection program is vital to the economic survival of the livestock industry.
Without additional federal funding to support existing western livestock-protection programs, predation-management expertise will be lost and livestock grazing in some areas will be jeopardized.
?This joint request between the sheep producers and the cattlemen shows a truly unified effort to increase support of the livestock-protection services provided by the agency,? states Paul Frischknecht, ASI president.
U.S. Senators Support LRP-Lamb
On June 28, 19 U.S. Senators showed a united front when they delivered a letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns supporting a Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) pilot program for the U.S. sheep industry.
In the letter, the senators stated, ?It is evident from the spirit and intent of the 2000 Agriculture Risk Protection Act (ARPA) that sheep and other livestock species not traded on the commodity exchange should not be excluded from price-risk pilot programs. The sheep industry has no futures markets or price-risk management tools available and should be a prime candidate for coverage as intended in ARPA.
?Pilots have been implemented to provide a measure of protection against price volatility for the beef and swine industries, and it would seem fully appropriate and authorized for the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to develop a pilot for the lamb industry,? they concluded.
Peter Orwick, executive director for the American Sheep Industry Association, commented, ?The industry greatly appreciates the commitment of the senators joining in written support of a LRP-Lamb pilot project. The opportunity to build a program for risk management on the price of lambs has strong interest in the industry and the senate letter will strengthen the need for approval of such a program with USDA.?
Senators joining the letter led by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) are: Wayne Allard (R-Colo.); Max Baucus (D-Mont.); Robert Bennett (R-Utah); Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.); Conrad Burns (R-Mont.); Kent Conrad (D-N.D.); Mike Crapo (R-Idaho); Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.); Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.); Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.); Ken Salazar (D-Colo.); Rick Santorum (R-Penn.); Gordon Smith (R-Ore.); Arlen Specter (R-Penn.); Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.); John Thune (R-S.D.); and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) President Paul Frischknecht provided a statement to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee regarding the Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) system for the sheep industry.
?Our board of directors has established policy strongly supporting re-authorization of MPR. We urge Congress to approve the re-authorization prior to the deadline this fall and we commit our resources to assist in any manner needed on this critical program,? stated Frischknecht.
The industry asked for the committee?s consideration to also re-authorize the retail-price series for lamb, as it has proven valuable to the American Lamb Board. MPR is the only avenue available to the sheep industry to collect this retail information.
ASI also joined the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen?s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Meat Institute in signing a letter requesting the Senate Agriculture Committee to re-authorize the Mandatory Reporting Act for a period of five years.
MPR makes markets more transparent and offers new market information with respect to pricing, contracting for purchase and supply and demand conditions for sheep, cattle and hogs.
?The sheep industry needs Congress to re-authorize the MPR to provide continuity in sheep market reporting in this country,? comments Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. ?In fact, MPR provides fairness to U.S. companies that carry the expense of price reporting of American product, as now the foreign and domestic companies handling foreign lamb are also required to report.?
Senate committee leadership, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) are not yet recommending re-authorization of MPR until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finishes an investigation into the integrity and accountability of prices reported under its provisions.
?That report is not expected until late in the year, after the MPR deadline has passed, which unfortunately means Congress may have to consider another one-year extension despite the support of U.S. livestock producers for a multi-year program,? concludes Orwick.
Johnson Sponsors COOL Bill
During the last week of June, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), along with Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), sponsored new country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) legislation that would advance the date for implementing mandatory COOL to January 30, 2006. Senate co-sponsors include Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.).
?It is time to see COOL implemented for all other covered commodities. This bill would speed things up to ensure that the U.S. Department of Agriculture remains on track and stops dragging their feet,? Johnson said.
The bi-partisan bill that was introduced would move the date for mandatory implementation up for all other covered commodities from September 30, 2006, to January 30, 2006. The other commodities category includes: muscle cuts of beef, veal, lamb and pork; ground beef, lamb and pork; perishable agricultural commodities; and peanuts.
Mandatory COOL for fish and shellfish was implemented on April 4, 2005.
?Although opponents said that COOL was nearly impossible to implement and would come with crippling costs, it seems to be working just fine for fish, right now. Enough waiting; this provision is law and consumers have a right to know where their food comes from,? Johnson continued.
A separate bi-partisan group of senators introduced legislation that would replace the mandatory program with a voluntary program.