President's Notes

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Sowing Seeds: With Industry’s Collective Voices, Much is Possible

By Burton Pfliger
Those of us involved in production agriculture are very familiar with the practice of placing seeds in fertile soil and watching the miracle of sun, water and time work its magic only to yield a bounty of resources enriching life.
This is the same practice we must employ if we wish to make legislative changes that will positively impact our industry. The process I am speaking of is to secure funding for many of the legislative priorities important to the entire sheep industry. As I write this column, we are only a week away from our Annual trip to Washington, D.C. Each of those dedicated volunteers attending will be planting the seeds of information and priorities important to us all. Some of these priorities are as follows.
  • Wildlife Services is always at the forefront of issues each year. This agency is a favorite target of misinformation and under constant attack to restrict or remove all lethal control measures from the agency. The Administration proposed a $9.44 million cut to Wildlife Damage Management. ASI supports no less than the 2015 appropriation.
  • The United States Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) has been targeted by this administration for closure. We averted the action last year thanks to many of you contacting your congressional delegations and those delegations taking the lead stopping USDA. This challenge is not over. We must work to restore and expand funding so that this 100 year old 48,000 acre large scale undisturbed laboratory remains in the tool box of American sheep producers. USSES is unique and provides the historical and necessary environment to solve the issues of the day that are central to the largest percentage of American breeding ewe base.
  • Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep grazing interface is still controversial at best. USDA/ARS has been heavily involved in the research of transmission. The sheep industry has invested heavily with a $100,000 contribution over the last 24 months. Yet this research is being ignored by the United States Forrest Service. The Payette decision if allowed to be used as a model over other allotments will exclude at least another 400,000 sheep and financially strap the families who rely on this for their income. The reality is domestic sheep and bighorns have existed in the same areas for many decades. No single identifiable pathogen can be clearly tied to contact with domestic sheep. In fact, documented die-offs of bighorns have occurred far removed from domestic sheep.
  • Mandatory price reporting was originally enacted in 1999. It requires the Secretary of Agriculture to produce national reports pertaining to the marketing of cattle, sheep and swine. The act is generally reauthorized for five-year periods so Congress will need to extend the authorization before Sept. 30, 2015. The American Sheep Industry Association supports reauthorization of Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999 with necessary changes that ensure high value useable data collection that better represents the present industry. Those changes have been detailed by ASI to USDA as part of the request for reauthorization.
  • Trans Pacific Trade is again an issue. Fully 12 years after the “cow that stole Christmas” lamb meat is still excluded from trade with specific trading partners due to BSE threat in cattle not sheep. This has continued to lag as a priority of USDA and we will again press them on this subject.
  • ASI supports not less than $19 million to continue a strong and robust scrapie surveillance and eradication program. This will ensure we can validate a scrapie-free domestic flock with all current and future trading partners of live animals and the meat trade.
There are other issues important to the sheep industry. These are listed on the Legislative Action Center at www.sheepusa.org. This center is new to the web page of ASI and contains working issues summary pages you may use when addressing your congressional representatives. Hopefully, you will find my brief summaries and the more extensive summaries online useful as you direct your conversation with congressional members.
How does this relate to sowing seed you ask?
Sowing the seeds of sheep industry priorities is the job of each of us, not just the volunteers who flock to Washington DC. Members/Producers need to be knowledgeable and willing to confront the legislative leaders that represent them. We need to inform legislators of the seriousness of the situation and the benefits and losses we will incur without supportive legislation.
With our many collective voices much is possible. With each of your voices acting as cumulative drops of rain and rays of sunshine those seeds of priorities and information will sprout. The difference herein lies with the media we sow the seeds into.
In the good book of Matthew, a parable describes the importance of sowing seeds in fertile soils and avoiding rocky, barren and stony places because while these seeds will sprout no root is established and the plant withers. Another parable talks about the miracle of the mustard seed. In it Matthew describes how one of the smallest seeds develops into one of the largest most vigorous plants capable of supporting many creatures.
Instead of fertile soils we must plant fertile minds. Instead of sun and rain we must utilize the cumulative effect of each of you contacting your congressional delegation and testifying to the priorities of our noble industry. Just as the spring and summer time span coaxes Mother Nature to bring about the miracle of the harvest, so will we be successful if we “join together to share ideas and information” just like our founders 150 years ago.
Thank you in advance for your efforts to set priorities of the sheep industry – and thank you for your continued membership and service.
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