February 25, 2003
The Honorable Ann Veneman
Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
200 Administration Building
1400 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Veneman:
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) board of directors at their annual meeting this month unanimously approved a request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the Lamb Market Adjustment Assistance Program (LMAAP) for an additional year to July 31, 2004.
The USDA LMAAP programs, including the ewe-lamb retention, feeder-lamb and slaughter-lamb programs have proven crucial to enhancing the competitiveness of the U.S. lamb industry. This important initiative is not yet complete, which provides the basis for the request to extend the LMAAP.
Additionally, the drought conditions were so severe across the heart of the sheep production in the U.S. and many producers were unable to retain ewe lambs for the breeding herd due to lack of feed and water. Steady to significant double-digit increases posted for breeding ewe lambs in 2002 were the expected result of the program and did in fact take place in states least impacted by the drought. These breeding lamb number increases, as documented in the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service annual inventory report (January 2003) are the first such gains in many years. This increase is important for all segments of the lamb business including packing and processing companies. However, those increases were offset by steep retained ewe-lamb declines in the worst drought areas, with the Dakotas down 15 to 40 percent; Utah, Montana and Colorado decreasing 15 to 20 percent resulting in an overall decrease of 4 percent nationwide.
Extension of each of the three LMAAP programs is important to provide equity in the incentives for all producers and feeders in the business, ewe lamb retention to expand and strengthen supplies and the quality improvement programs for feeder and slaughter lambs. The ewe-lamb program was just added to LMAAP and made available to producers through USDA Farm Service Agency in May of 2002 to avoid encouraging slaughter of ewe lambs that ought to be kept in the herds for breeding.
We sincerely appreciate your consideration of extending LMAAP under your authority for section 32 funding of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Guy Flora President
C: State Sheep Industry Associations