The Last Word

The Last Word

Sheep Producers Go To Washington, D.C.

Sheep Industry News Editor

Washington, D.C., is probably the last place on Earth I want to go for work. I’d be happy to take a long vacation there and spend countless days at the Smithsonian museums, the various monuments, etc. But if given the choice between a cold barn in the middle of nowhere or Capitol Hill, I’ll take the barn any day.

That’s a big part of why I haven’t been on the ASI Spring Legislative Trip to the nation’s capital in the three-plus years I’ve worked at ASI.

There are other staff members who have to be there, so I’ve generally traveled to shearing schools and lambing workshops that time of year instead. But that might change in 2019.

The fact is, working with the various elected leaders and government agencies in Washington, D.C., is a big part of what we do at ASI. At some point, I need to be a part of that. And, so do you.

Maybe you feel the same way about Washington, D.C., as I do, or maybe you love it there. Regardless, decisions are made there every day that affect us all both personally and professionally. We can choose to ignore the things going on there until the repercussions show up on our doorstep, or we can choose to be a part of the process.

ASI’s legislative trip offers sheep producers the latter. It’s an opportunity to meet one-on-one with agency leaders and elected officials. This results in a better understanding of the way these folks work (or don’t work) with our industry. It also offers the opportunity to pass along your thoughts on the issues affecting our industry.

The legislative trip is set for March 12-14 this year. If you’re interested in attending, please talk with your state sheep association, as there are avenues to help defray a portion of the cost of the trip. If you’re not already signed up with your state, then you need to do so as soon as possible.

I’m hoping and praying that everyone in Washington, D.C.,  is back to work by the time we get there. As I write this column in the middle of January, many government workers – including a lot of our friends at the U.S. Department of Agriculture – are either furloughed or working without pay in what is already the longest government shutdown in United States history. One way or another, I’m betting the situation will have been resolved by March.

Assuming that it has, producers can expect to meet with representatives from USDA and the Department of the Interior before spending the following day or two visiting with elected representatives and senators. A year ago, the Farm Bill was the focus of many such meetings. Thanks in part to the more than 60 sheep producers who attended the legislative trip and stressed the importance of the legislation, Congress passed the most sheep-friendly Farm Bill in decades.

So, what will be the hot topic this year? Certainly public lands issues, such as dwindling grazing allotments and how they are affected by bighorn sheep will come up. Recent research suggests that infected bighorns could be contracting deadly pathogens from animals other than domestic sheep.

The continuing problem of cheap, imported lamb and its affect on the domestic meat market also needs to be addressed.
What’s your main concern? Sign up for the legislative trip now, and then start planning out discussions on the issues that affect you the most.

Maybe, I’ll see you there.

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