President's Notes

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Perfect Time to Tell American Sheep Industry’s Story

Mike Corn, ASI President

The headline on a recent article from Charlie Arnot at the Center for Food Integrity read, “U.S. Farmers Need to Get Out Now.” It certainly caught my attention, but it isn’t what you might think.

The author isn’t encouraging farmers to get out of the business of growing America’s food. Instead, he’s encouraging them to get out the story of how they grow America’s food.

“Most farmers I know didn’t pursue their passion for raising food to hone their public relations skills,” Arnot writes. “Yet, in an environment where public skepticism about food production has reached a fever pitch, particularly when it comes to the acceptance of new on-farm technologies, the time is right for more farmers and ranchers to get out of the comfort zones and engage with the public.”

While I’m not a big fan of public speaking myself, I’d agree that we’ve reached a point where farmers and ranchers need to be educating the public about the process of growing and raising the American food supply.

But there’s more to it than just that. After eight years of Washington politics that seemed to be stacked against business in general (and even more so the business of agriculture), we have an opportunity to make some significant changes in the way of burdensome federal regulations. Now is the time for American farmers and ranchers to get out and go to Washington, D.C., in defense of our industry.

ASI has been active in pushing for new legislation (or, in some cases, the removal of old legislation) for this reason. There’s an opportunity to make some real headway in Washington, and we can’t let the opportunity pass us by.

Availability of coyote control tools, such as the M-44, has been front and center at ASI this winter as we pursue a common sense policy from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on placement of control devices. The interim policy on M-44s restricts use in many of the states and currently some of the 18 states registering use can’t have them at all.

We are full tilt to secure language in Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations for fair treatment of sheep operations in grazing decisions involving bighorn habitat.  Check out the Legislative Action Center at Sheepusa.org for the request and background. Equal access to justice reform is much needed to balance positive government policy that is wrapped up in frivolous lawsuits. USDA is regularly harassed by national environmental policy act lawsuits, including ones affecting the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station and Wildlife Services. Not only are officials forced to spend time away from delivering programs for the sheep industry, but their agency budgets often have to pay legal expenses for the groups filing such lawsuits.

We are corresponding with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on support for USSES this spring, as well. I would suggest that whichever national party is in charge of the federal agencies, the leaders of that party often need an education in the first year on what programs impact sheep producers and how changes to such programs might affect the industry.

Currently, the scrapie eradication program and mandatory price reporting of lamb join the list of topics we are educating congressional and administration leaders about on a daily basis. ASI welcomes your involvement – particularly as we ask members of congress to contact USDA and other agencies on our behalf.

Speaking of education, we’ll be launching a new consumer-oriented American wool website this summer that producers can use to better enlighten the public about the value of choosing American wool when purchasing clothing. Be on the lookout for the new site at AmericanWool.org in the months to come.

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