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Sheep Industry, USDA Must Work Together
Mike Corn, ASI President
The National Association of Farm Broadcasters Trade Talk in Kansas City in early November provided an opportunity for ASI to start some important conversations with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
While I haven’t yet had the chance to sit down and discuss our industry’s needs in-depth with the secretary, we did enjoy a few minutes of conversation as he stopped by the ASI booth at the trade show. Immediately, he thanked the association – and the industry as a whole – for its support of Wildlife Services. It was apparent that the value sheep producers place on this essential U.S. Department of Agriculture program has reached the upper echelons of the department. Certainly, that was encouraging as predator control has always been and always will be a key topic within our industry.
It’s important that the sheep industry meet with the new USDA officials to provide guidance on sheep industry issues and department programs that impact our business.
Sec. Perdue’s mention of Wildlife Services is especially important given the current battle over the use of M-44 sodium cyanide device. The device has previously been approved for use in 16 states and has proven to be a vital tool in protecting livestock and the environment.
Certainly, trade is one of these issues. When it comes to both imports and exports, there are decisions looming that will affect the American sheep industry’s ability to compete in a global market.
The United States is one of the most open lamb markets in the world, yet key export markets such as Japan and Europe remain closed to American lamb. In an effort to address this discrepancy, we’re also looking to share information with USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney.
One important factor in possible trade negotiations is removing the threat of scrapie within our borders. In late 2015, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service offered a proposed rule to amend scrapie regulations. It is impossible to move forward on scrapie eradication until the new regulations are put into place. Unfortunately, the process has stalled as our country changed administrations earlier this year. Now is the time to get this process back on track.
New lawsuits have once again put the fate of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, in jeopardy. As the nation’s only experiment station devoted solely to sheep production, the station is crucial to the future of our industry. Other issues, including bighorn sheep and mandatory price reporting also need to be addressed. I’m hopeful that our industry can continue to work with USDA to address these issues under Sec. Perdue’s leadership.
Following the Farm Broadcasters stop in Kansas City, I headed to the West Central Wool Grower Convention in Sun Valley, Idaho. It was great to see so many friends and be a part of their convention.
I wish everyone a blessed and merry Christmas, and bring on 2018.