August 15, 2003
USDA Responds to Senators? Request for LMAAP Extension
Twenty-two senators in May signed a letter addressed to Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman in which they requested a one-year extension of the Lamb Meat Adjustment Assistance Program (LMAAP).
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) in mid-May obtained a copy of the letter of response sent by Under Secretary Bill Hawks, on behalf of Secretary Veneman, to the initiators of this request ? Sens. Craig Thomas (R-WY) and Max Baucus (D-MT), and their colleagues.
?We believe the LMAAP provided much needed assistance during a critical time for the sheep industry and has improved returns to producers thus fulfilling the program?s objectives,? he wrote.
Hawks went on to address the increase in prices for feeder and slaughter lambs since 1999, when the programs began. Even though payments have been made on the retention or purchase of more than 1.3 million ewe lambs to increase the quality and size of the U.S. flock, Hawks stated that they ?do recognize that the ewe lamb expansion portion of the program was curtailed as a result of the serious drought conditions in many parts of the United States.
?As we consider your request to extend the LMAAP for an additional year, we will evaluate the overall condition of the sheep industry before making a final decision,? concluded Hawks.
ASI President Guy Flora was encouraged by this response.
?Under Secretary Hawks has identified the strengths of these programs but also realizes the negative impact the drought had on the final success,? said Flora. ?ASI looks forward to future updates as Secretary Veneman makes her decision on the one-year extension of LMAAP.?
In related news, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and U.S. Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA) added their support for the one-year extension of the Lamb Market Adjustment Assistance Program (LMAAP) in mid June with letters to Veneman.
Specter argued that ?as ranchers and farmers across the state of Pennsylvania struggle to recover from one of the worst droughts ever? an extension of assistance of another year to July 31, 2004, would help lamb producers complete the task of recovery and, more importantly, adapt to the considerable structural changes suffered by their domestic markets over the last few years.?
?There is a significant sheep and lamb presence in my District,? wrote Thomas. ?My constituent producers have informed me that they support the LMAAP because they consider its programs ? to have proven crucial to the enhanced competitiveness of the United States lamb industry.?
Thomas cited his support along with that of the California Wool Growers and the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI).
Additionally, both letters stressed the importance of extending the ewe-lamb program. Revisions to this program ? while helpful and much appreciated ? are less than a year old. Lack of an extension might pressure ewe lambs into the slaughter channel instead of retention into the breeding herd.
According to ASI President Guy Flora, ?USDA has begun preparation for the final weeks of the programs so we welcome the Congressional support for extension and hope to hear of a positive decision soon. The program is slated to end on July 31, 2003, unless an extension is granted.?
House Votes to Repeal Estate Tax Permanently
With a vote of 264?163, the House voted in mid June to approve legislation to make the repeal of the federal estate tax permanent.
?The estate tax is yet another tax burden placed on the American people, particularly family farms and small business,? said Congressman Bill Thomas (R-CA), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. ?Today?s vote reflects the continued Republican ideal to provide consistent tax relief to working Americans.?
Currently the estate tax provisions will expire at the end of 2010. With the passage of the new rule (H.R. 8), American taxpayers will not be subject to an estate tax hike beginning Jan. 1, 2011.
The measure now heads to the Senate, and if approved by that body, to President Bush for his signature.