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USDA Assistance Package Expected Soon

The American Sheep Industry Association and its affiliates have maintained regular correspondence with the U.S. Department of Agriculture outlining the anticipated $350 million in damage to the industry as a result of COVID-19.

While details are slow to emerge, Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue told Farm Journal Live’s Clinton Griffiths on Thursday that, “this first tranche is probably going to be 16 to 18 billion dollars, 16 [billion] in direct payments to our producers, really in all of our sectors, including cattle, livestock, cow-calf operations, hogs, as well as produce, specialty crops, commodities that have been hurt and then the dairy sector.”

That statement echoes the sentiment Sec. Perdue conveyed in a letter to ASI president Benny Cox this week, saying, “I appreciate you highlighting the struggles that the American sheep industry are experiencing as it faces the COVID-19 outbreak. I will keep your comments in mind as we continue to assess how we can best help our hardworking farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers with the recently signed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and other authorities and options to prevent, prepare, and respond to the impacts of COVID-19 while supporting our agricultural producers. USDA is also evaluating other authorities and options to prevent, prepare and respond to the impacts of COVID-19 while supporting our agricultural producers.”

ASI understands that the assistance package has been submitted to the White House for review and expects to see an announcement from USDA on further details as soon as early next week. In the meantime, the association continues to work with USDA and Congress to find solutions for America’s lamb and wool producers who have been hit hard first by the trade dispute with China and now by the global pandemic.

Click Here for ASI’s COVID-19 Resources.


ASI Advocates for Rural Healthcare

The American Sheep Industry Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to request rural healthcare providers have resources and funding to properly respond to the COVID-19 virus.

“Rural healthcare providers have unique needs unlike densely populated areas. We are calling on Secretary Alex Azar and Secretary Sonny Perdue to ensure rural healthcare providers have needed resources, particularly where the number of providers are limited across a vast geographic area, and technology to allow for expanded tele-health services amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall.

“This is not business as usual for the sheep and cattle industry. Poor market conditions bring unprecedented levels of stress to farmers and ranchers. COVID-19 has exacerbated this burden through isolation and uncertainty for these industries. We must ensure farmers and ranchers do not navigate this alone by providing ample access to mental health assistance,” added ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick.

“Much of rural America operates with limited numbers of healthcare providers. If doctors, nurses or administrators serving rural areas become exposed to COVID-19, it could result in loss of access to care for large regions,” said PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “It is essential these hospitals have resources to protect their employees and the rural communities at the front lines of this crisis.”


NZWTA Looking to Open on April 23

The New Zealand Wool Testing Authority Laboratory has set April 23 as a tentative date for reopening. The lab is handling commercial wool testing for American wool in 2020. But the lab was forced to close on March 25 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Progress continues to be made at Texas A&M to test American wool, beginning in 2021. Although there has been a disruption in sending wool to New Zealand, the American wool industry appreciates the opportunity to continue to have IWTO approved testing available from NZ in 2020.

“The NZ Government has advised that they will make a decision on 20 April regarding the end or extension of our lockdown,” wrote Duane Knowles, chief executive of the NZWTA in an email to American wool leaders this week. “The signs are looking encouraging as our case numbers have been dropping (we were typically 60 to 80 cases per day 7 to 10 days ago, the last few days have been 18 to 42). The borders will remain closed to tourists, but freight continues to come in.

“If any of you are holding onto samples, I would now encourage you to start sending them,” Knowles continued. “We are cautiously optimistic of re-opening 23 April, so any deliveries sent now should arrive close to this date. Again, please advise me of the tracking details of any deliveries so we can monitor. By having the samples here they will be at the front of the queue and will get processed first. In all likelihood, our own local industry will take a few days to get going again, so there will be a good opportunity to prioritize all United Staes/Canadian samples that arrive. Remember too that we can easily handle 200 to 300 samples a day, so capacity is not a problem.”

Click Here for more information.


ALB, NSIIC Nominations Due to ASI By April 24

The American Sheep Industry Association is seeking nominations of sheep producers to serve on both federal boards affiliated with the sheep business. ASI is certified to nominate producers and feeders to the American Lamb Board and is the only organization that can nominate directors to the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in March that it is accepting nominations to serve on ALB and NSIIC beginning in 2021. The deadline to submit nominations to ASI is April 24. USDA requires two nominations for each vacant position.

The American Lamb Board has five openings for three-year terms that will begin in February 2021: a producer with 100 or less lambs; a producer with more than 500 lambs; a feeder with less than 5,000 lambs; a first handler; and a seedstock producer.

Any American producer, feeder, first handler or seedstock producer who owns or purchases lambs may be considered for nomination. To satisfy the requirements of the Lamb Promotion and Research Order, either the producer with 100 lambs or less or the producer with more than 500 lambs must be from Region 1.

The 13-member American Lamb Board is industry-funded and supports the national marketing and promotion of sheep and sheep products.

Click Here to learn more.

The NSIIC board of directors has three openings. There are two vacancies for sheep producers and one vacancy for a person with expertise in marketing.

The board of directors comprises seven voting members and two non-voting members. Voting members include four active sheep producers, two members with expertise in finance and management and one member with expertise in lamb or wool product marketing. Non-voting members include USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.

Click Here to learn more.


Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival Going Online

Less than a month after cancelling the 47th annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival due to the COVID-19 crisis, organizers have decided to take a different approach.

Since we won’t be getting together in person this year, we are hosting a virtual online festival instead,” organizers wrote recently on the festival’s website and social media outlets.

We are working on the following components for festival weekend, May 2-3:

  • Virtual Vendor Marketplace
  • Virtual Fleece Sale
  • Online Swag Store

“Our home base will be the new Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival Online Community group on Facebook. This group was set up to allow the greater festival community to interact, inspire and share with one another. Anyone is welcome to post in this group. However, if you want to post about items for sale, you must be a current Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival vendor or be part of the virtual fleece sale.”

Click Here to learn more.


Australian Market Dips Slightly During Small Sale

Week 42 was originally scheduled as an Easter recess week. However, a decision was made by the National Auction Selling Committee to schedule a sale to provide another selling opportunity for growers wanting or needing to sell.

Brokers were encouraged to only offer wool from genuine motivated sellers in an effort to keep the national offering down. This had the desired result. After 15.5 percent of the offering was withdrawn prior to sale, the total number of bales on offer nationally was only 18,097 bales – the smallest national weekly offering since June 2009.

Due to the small number of lots on offer, only a one-day (Wednesday) sale was required. The market opened solidly in the Eastern centers with minimal price movements reported in early trade. As the sale progressed, however, the market started to retract. So much so that the Western region, selling last, recorded losses in the individual Micron Price Guides for 20.0 micron and finer of between 21 and 44 cents. Melbourne managed to record mainly positive overall movement as the Southern MPGs in the 19.0 micron and finer range gained between 1 and 16 cents for the series.

The Northern MPGs fell across the board, with losses of between 2 and 11 cents. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator also recorded an overall loss, falling by 9 cents and closing the week at 1,292 Australian cents.

A large reason for this fall was that the gains in the Southern Merino MPGs were offset by losses in the crossbred MPGs, which fell by 19 to 46 cents. Many sellers were either unwilling or unprepared to meet the market. Across the country more than 23 percent of the offering failed to reach seller reserve. Many of these passed in wools were lesser-style lots, which continually lost buyer support.

Next week’s national offering increases to 31,738 bales, with all three centers in operation on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Source: AWEX


New Analysis Shows Agriculture Reducing GHG Emissions

The Farmers for a Sustainable Future – a coalition of 22 agricultural organizations, including the American Sheep Industry Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association – highlighted new data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture that shows American farmers and ranchers continue to reduce per-unit greenhouse gas emissions. The ag sector accounts for less than 10 percent of total United States emissions.

The report coincides with a Market Intel report from the Farm Bureau which found that methane emissions from livestock have declined since 1990 as livestock producers have increased productivity. The same has held true for crops as American farmers are producing more on fewer acres. When compared to farm production in 1990, United States farmers would have needed almost 100 million additional acres to grow the same amount of key crops they are producing today absent these advancements.

The analysis builds on the data shared during the launch of Farmers for a Sustainable Future, showing the significant gains farmers and ranchers have made in reducing their environmental footprint.

The sheep industry continues to work on a full life-cycle analysis at the farm level to provide consumers with information on the sustainability of our products. Sheep are part of the natural carbon cycle, consuming the organic carbon stored in plants and converting it to wool. Fifty percent of the weight of wool is pure organic carbon.

Click Here for more about the Farmers for a Sustainable Future.

Click Here for the American Farm Bureau Market Intel analysis.


Video of the Week

Chances are you don’t really need to watch someone else’s sheep. But these strange times have left us all with some spare time, so if you’re looking to fill some time you might want to try six hours of Relax with Sheep at Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley on YouTube. The video earned a mention in The Critic’s Notebook column written by Pete Wells for the New York Times this week.

Click Here to watch the video.

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