Legislative Council Hears From Richards

2014 ASI CONVENTION

Legislative Council Hears From Richards

JUDY MALONE
ASI Director of Industry Information

The Farm Bill, immigration, trade agreements and appropriations highlighted the topics discussed during the ASI Legislative Council meeting in Charleston on Jan. 24.

Addressing the council at his inaugural industry meeting, Jim Richards, Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., laid out the legislative priorities that his organization will be working to accomplish for the sheep industry. Cornerstone was retained as the industry’s lobbying group in July 2013 by ASI executive director Peter Orwick.

According to Richards, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is likely to be finalized in 2014. Japan would be the bright spot in this agreement for the lamb industry. An analysis of the markets (i.e. ethnic vs cruise ships) that are being addressed by lamb importers would help U.S. producers determine their focus for domestic lamb since market protection is unavailable under the “no tariff ” policies for lamb entering the United States.

In the appropriations process, 2014 funding levels for USDA’s Wildlife Services’ were increased to those of 2012, restoring the 7.6 percent decrease from 2013. Both operations and research recovered lost dollars.

“This doesn’t mean we can relax our efforts on Wildlife Services,” stressed Richards. “Rep. DeFazio (Ore.) is licking his chops to again pick-up the fight against the agency.”

With Sen. Baucus’s (Mont.) move to Ambassador to China, new relationships in the House and Senate will need to be developed to champion the causes of the sheep industry. To assist with this endeavor, Richards committed to providing a roadmap for building these new relationships by preparing an overlay of sheep production with the voting districts across the United States, thus matching the strongest sheep areas to those members.

Orwick added to the legislative presentation reporting on the two years of work by ASI on sheep programs in the Farm bill. Since the meeting, the Farm Bill has been passed and signed in to law. Programs of interest to the sheep industry and included in the final bill are the Livestock Indemnity Program with a two-year loopback, funding for the sheep center, an extension of the wool trust through 2019 and lamb meat continues to be included under the country-of-origin-labeling law.

“Lamb has a great record when it comes to food safety,” said Barry Carpenter, North American Meat Association chief executive officer. However, as the Food Safety and Inspection Service works through the evaluation of all meats, lamb will be further scrutinized and the industry needs to prepare for the impact this review could have on its product. Carpenter was recognized for “putting the wheels on the export initiative for lamb.”

Lamb companies are investing the time and money needed to expand export markets for lamb products. This initiative, like USDA’s lamb purchase program, is key for the industry to move more product through the supply chain.

“Access to world markets is critical,” continued Carpenter. Products needs to be sold wherever the product is needed, however, the United States needs access to these markets to be able to do this. All parts of a carcass contribute to the total value of the animal, therefore, the “more places we have to market product, the better it is for the industry as a whole.”

Lively discussion pursued during Dustin Van Liew’s, executive director for the Public Lands Council, presentation about the Grazing Improvement Act.

The act opposes a precedent-setting permanent permit buyout policy similar to a voluntary program currently in place in New Mexico and Oregon. Other features of the act include blocking outside groups without property interest from opposing grazing, an extension of grazing permits to 20 years, allows expired permits to be extended until the renewal process is complete and allows exclusions to environmental assessments.

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