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Time for New Leadership

Burton Pfliger, ASI President
These past two years have been both fleeting and challenging, while still providing me the joy of ritual and ceremony. Thank you for the privilege to serve on behalf of some 88,000 sheep producers from coast to coast.

This experience was, and shall remain, one of the high points and honors of my life. During the last two years, ASI celebrated its 150th and 151st years of advocacy on behalf of the American sheep producer. We have remained steadfast and true to those farsighted individuals who structured our association in 1865, and set our goals of shared prosperity on the horizon of the future.    

It was my distinct source of pride to provide comments this past July at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station as it celebrated 100 years of service to the entire industry. Our USSES will always be a unique and special place capable of solving the issues of the day so essential to the entire industry. This magnificent outdoor laboratory provides real world validity and peer reviewed science necessary to combat special interest groups focused on its closure. I asked those in attendance to adopt the mantra expressed by all-time slugger Babe Ruth who said, “It is hard to beat someone who never gives up.” With your continued support and advocacy, we will be able to expand the research program and pass this resource on to the next generation.  

ASI worked diligently for three years preparing comments and proposed changes to reauthorize Mandatory Price Reporting legislation and update the rules. We lowered thresholds for reporting lamb, so we do have some additional companies reporting, however, USDA has not published numerous reports since Mountain States Cooperative took over the JBS operation. The decision thus far by UDSA on the cooperative reports and transparency changes to lamb is not what producers supported. However, it was not for lack of input and effort on the part of staff and volunteer leaders. We will continue to push for the inclusion of MSR Cooperative lambs into the equation (nearly 50 percent of total lamb slaughter goes unreported) while working with congress to seek resolution.  

Last year witnessed the rebranding and release of the new logo for garments and fabrics composed of American wool. This logo brings our image a new and fresh look since it first was introduced some 50 years ago. The new logo projects wool as a chic, environmentally sustainable fiber of today and the future, so essential for today’s outdoor adventurer/consumer.

As part of ASI’s commitment to the Roadmap, the association contributed $1.5 million through the Let’s Grow program. Four rounds of grants have now been awarded to worthy recipients who share the passion and vision of expanding and growing the industry we all utilize to renew our source of wealth. 

This past year, ASI made significant inroads into the bighorn sheep threat to producers. The language we successfully included in the Omnibus legislation of the 114th Congress along with the expertise and dedication of Dr. Don Knowles and Dr. Maggie Highland was instrumental in sustaining allotments or securing replacement allotments from Washington State to Colorado. We must continue the campaign started two years ago, and with the additional funding and efforts put to work with Cornerstone Government Affairs and Jim Richards, more can be done. It is imperative to us all to provide security and certainty for those producers faced with special interest, anti-livestock and hunting groups focused on their destruction.  

On the front of public land policy, producer advocacy and burdensome government regulations, ASI has added another resource for the producers – a seasoned voice on Capitol Hill. We look for meaningful impacts of this new policy position. On the wool side of the equation, ASI was successful in securing an equally qualified and respected advocate in raw wool services. This consultant position will continue enriching wool development, promotion and international relations so essential to domestic and global wool production and trade.          

Additionally, ASI has reached out to President Donald J. Trump, whose hopeful message of eliminating cumbersome and burdensome government regulations and overreach draws our interest and optimism. Areas we are seeking assistance include full funding of Wildlife Services, maintaining and growing the USSES research program, withdrawal from the disastrous agreement to import bone-in meat from Uruguay, amend MPR to allow cooperative price reporting as part of the formula, withdraw from the U.S. Forest Service species viability plan, withdraw from Bureau of Land Management Policy 1730 on the management of sheep and goats to sustain wild sheep, delist the grizzly bear and the wolf, and endorse a more producer-friendly H-2A program.  

As you can see, we have accomplished a lot and have much more work to do. With capable volunteer leaders such as Mike Corn, Benny Cox and the talented executive board, much is possible. Thank you all for your service. It was my pleasure to work with each of you.  

I would be remiss if I did not recognize the outstanding dedication and day-to-day exemplary service of the entire ASI staff. These individuals’ daily efforts make this association a giant, effective advocate serving each of our farms and ranches. As for me, I shall remain active, supportive and engaged in all things ASI and sheep-production related. And so in the words of William Shakespeare, “The wheel is come full circle.” It is time for new leadership. Congratulations to my friend Mike Corn, you will shine.

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