Mike Corn, ASI President
With the ASI Annual Convention now behind us – see complete coverage of our time in San Antonio in the March issue of the Sheep Industry News – we look toward March and another opportunity to promote our industry.
Each year ASI’s Washington, D.C., trip offers sheep producers the chance to meet with administration and legislative officials in hopes that we can work together to address the issues that are important to our industry. On the legislative front, we’ll be supporting the sheep industry priorities in the Farm Bill – due before the close of 2018. Funding of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station and scrapie eradication will be top requests, as well as much needed language regarding the bighorn sheep threat and predator management. It is likely foreign guest workers in agriculture remains on the agenda for Congress this year, as well.
A key for many producers is participation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the sheep industry. The Washington, D.C., location allows a prime opportunity to meet with the Agricultural Marketing Service that we partner with on wool research and education, as well as the Foreign Agricultural Service – our partner with international wool promotion. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials visit with us on disease control and eradication in sheep, and we discuss protection of sheep with the top decision makers of USDA’s Wildlife Services.
It is important that producers from a variety of states participate in the trip, allowing us to visit with a number of congressional delegations as we share the needs of our industry. March is the beginning of the funding cycle, so it is the appropriate time to submit our requests regarding adequate funding of scrapie tags and predator management. Communicating with administration and appropriations officials at the start of the budget process is vital, versus late in the year when allocations are already set.
If you haven’t attended in the past, I’d encourage you to reach out to your state sheep association about the details of attending.
Changing directions, I can’t believe that my first year as ASI president is already in the books. I’ve traveled the country extensively in that time looking to meet and visit with as many sheep producers and industry-related companies as possible. I look forward to traveling even more in my second year.
I can relay a key success of the association has been the inclusion of the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative price data in Mandatory Price Reporting of lamb. We were determined to get this accomplished and stayed the course until the answer was yes.
I should also mention the ASI wool council military tour back in October 2017. We brought together the textile procurement folks from nearly every branch of the armed services to tour and visit with wool processors and manufacturers to explain the benefit of wool for our service men and women. This should strengthen current business, and hopefully promote new orders.
ASI set the benchmark in 2017 for what we want accomplished in the Farm Bill for sheep producers and submitted statements to congressional leaders and testimony before the agriculture committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. We did the same with reconstituting the sheep industry committee on H-2A sheepherders. We gathered the priorities of the national sheep organizations and secured language to strengthen the sheepherder program.
I close with a mention of the fourth year of the Let’s Grow Program in 2017-2018. With pride I point out that we have more than $1 million dollars at work in more than 50 projects across America to promote efficiencies and profitability in the sheep business.
Trade is also important in our industry, which is why I met with USDA Under Secretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney on a trip to the nation’s capital in December. I believe the conversations we had there will benefit all facets of our industry in the years to come.
Finally, I’d like to urge the entire sheep industry to work together so that sheep might once again rule the range.