House Takes a Step Toward H-2A Reform

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 260 to 165 to advance the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, containing language for the American sheep industry. The act was introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (Wash.). Access to a legal workforce for sheepherding and shearing is a top priority of the American Sheep Industry Association.

For the sheep industry, ASI worked to include language in the House bill that would move our H-2A program from a seasonal workforce to a year-round program with a cap of 2,500 visas per year. Including language that codified special procedures under a year-round program has become critically important in light of a recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling.

In Hispanic Affairs Project v. Acosta, the court found that authorizing back-to-back, 364-day approvals of H-2A sheep/goatherder petitions under a temporary or seasonal program violated the Administrative Procedures Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act because it was creating de facto permanent herder jobs. With the court’s ruling, a change to the rules by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has already been announced, which absent congressional action will result in those who use guest herders filing applications more frequently and adding additional costs and paperwork.

“More than one-third of the sheep in the United States spend some time under the care of a guest herder and we thank Representatives Newhouse and Simpson (Idaho) for their work on this bi-partisan legislation,” said ASI President Benny Cox. “We appreciate Congress recognizing the unique needs of the American sheep industry and long history we’ve had as good stewards of the H-2A program. As this bill continues to move through the Senate, ASI will continue to work to ensure that any final legislation conforms to our policy; preserving a viable guest worker program and codifying special procedures for range herders and shearers.”

While last-minute wrangling in the committee retained the language for a limited allocation of guest workers for range sheep and goat herding, it ultimately reduced the cap to 500. While not ideal, this places the sheep industry in a good position as it looks to work with the Senate on companion legislation and then conference the House and Senate bills before they are sent to the president’s desk.

Click Here for more on the bill in this week’s ASI SheepCast.

 

RAMPAC Needs Industry Support

 The American Sheep Industry Association political action committee – RAMPAC – provides political support for United States senators and representatives who support the sheep industry. Every two years, each representative and one-third of the senators run for election, and the industry needs more support for those that share our support of agriculture.

Historically, ASI has relied solely on annual convention attendees to fund RAMPAC. However, today’s trying times require more support and engagement, and we need to ask our entire membership to consider supporting the cause. Your $25 to $100 contribution would be a great help to this fund. We are working with our supporters in Congress this year to address livestock trucking with the need for workable rules to transport sheep. We have repeatedly asked Congress to support us with predator control tools. We completed a Farm Bill with important sheep programs because key folks insisted that they be included. Throw in the emerging threats of fake and/or lab grown “meat,” trade distortion and the never-ending attacks on our ability to control predators and you have a full plate.

For all the aforementioned reasons, and many more, it is more important than ever for key members of Congress to see America’s sheep industry as an important ally in their effort to represent our interests. Simply stated, as a comparatively small livestock organization, we must be vocal and active on multiple fronts. Not the least of which is political engagement. If you share our passion for the industry and want to help us utilize this important tool, please take the time click the link below and submit the contribution form with your payment. Your contribution of $25 or more can make a tangible difference in our efforts.

Thank you for the consideration and, remember, those that are not sitting at the table are on the menu.

Click Here to contribute.

 

ASI Welcomes Skipwith Confirmation

The American Sheep Industry Association applauds the U.S. Senate’s decision on Thursday to confirm Aurelia Skipwith as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The first African-American to serve as FWS director, Skipwith previously was the deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the Department of the Interior. ASI supported her nomination to the new role, as did many of the association’s state affiliates.

“We look forward to working with Aurelia in her new role,” said ASI President Benny Cox of Texas.

 

Make It With Wool Looking for Producer Judges

Make It With Wool is looking for two wool producers (male or female) to serve as judges for the National Make It With Wool Finals during the American Sheep Industry Association Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., next month. Volunteers must be able to help determine which wool fashions best represent the wool industry.

There will be a total of six judges (two who specialize in fashion design, two who specialize in construction and two wool producers). These hard-to-fill wool producer positions are critical, as it is the wool industry’s product Make It With Wool is marketing.

Judging is an all-day event scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 24. National Make It With Wool Director Lynda Jordan Johnson will hold a 30-minute judges’ meeting to start the day. After the meeting, judges break into two groups and judge apparel construction for their respective age division (junior or senior). There will be a break for lunch, and judges receive a complimentary meal at the hotel restaurant. Fashion judging takes place immediately after lunch and typically takes until 5 p.m.

Please consider volunteering. For more information, contact Arizona Make It With Wool Director Rali Burleson at scottrali@cox.net or 480-948-6258.

 

Ag Groups Call for Passage of HR 5259

The American Sheep Industry Association signed on to a letter this week in support of H.R. 5259, the Preserving Family Farms Act of 2019. The letter addressed to Reps. Jimmy Panetta (Calif.) and Jackie Walorski (Ind.), urged passed of the house resolution which will help family-owned agricultural businesses transition from one generation to the next by allowing more land to be appraised on its agricultural value, rather than its development value for estate tax purposes.

“Section 2032A Special Use Valuation allows farmland to be valued for estate tax purposes on the basis of its current agricultural value rather than on its highest use value (for example as a housing development). Unfortunately, the benefits of Section 2032A have been significantly eroded over the years due to a deduction cap that that has failed to keep pace with the rising value of farmland,” reads the letter signed by more than three dozen agricultural groups. “Since Section 2032A was indexed for inflation, its use limitation has increased 57 percent to $1.16 million in 2019. Over that same timespan agricultural land (which includes buildings) has increased in value by 241 percent.”

“Expanding the amount of farm and ranch land that can be appraised at its agricultural value will keep more land in agriculture production and prevent estate taxes from breaking apart multi-generation family farms and ranches. Section 2032A is a well-established part of the Internal Revenue Code that is carefully crafted to target estate tax relief. The code spells out that only operating family-owned businesses can use Section 2032A and that that estate taxes are recaptured if the family fails to operate the business for at least ten years.”

“Recent data indicate that overall, development disproportionately occurred on agricultural lands and in less than one generation, the United States irrevocably lost nearly 11 million acres of its best agricultural land to development. Now is the time for Congress to recognize the critical value of family-owned agricultural businesses. With that in mind, our organizations commend you for introducing H.R. 5259, the Preserving Family Farms Act of 2019 and thank you for your efforts to protect farmland and the farm and ranch businesses that rely on this landscape to thrive.”

 

Australian Market Takes Positive Turn

The Australian wool market managed to reverse the downward trend it was on, recording overall positive movements after three weeks of losses. There are only two selling weeks before the annual Christmas break and many exporters needed this week to complete orders in time for shipment dates.

The need to buy wool helped push demand, and the result was spirited bidding from the outset that pushed prices higher. All types and descriptions across all merino microns enjoyed the increases, as buyers scrambled hard for quantity while it was available. The individual Micron Price Guides across the country recorded increases of between 7 and 45 cents, with the exception of the Southern 18.5 micron MPG, which lost 19 cents.

The rises in the MPGs helped to push the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator up by 11 cents for the series, which closed the week at 1,503 Australian cents. The national turnover this season passed the one-billion dollar mark, this took seven more sales than the previous season, where the billion dollar amount was reached in Week 16.

The skirtings also recorded overall positive movement for the series, generally between 10 and 20 cents. Although the skirtings posted gains for the week, there was a softening on the final day, generally 10 cents clean. In contrast to the previous series, where the oddments were the only sector to record increases, this series the oddments were the worst performing.

General losses of between 10 and 25 cents resulted in average losses of 19 cents across the three regional carding indicators. Due to a National Auction Selling Committee business rule – that there must be four business days between the final selling day and Christmas Day – next week’s auction is selling on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Source: AWEX

 

 Video of the Week

Stories have power. Not only do stories inform and educate, they also shape perspectives, mindsets and emotions. The story of American lamb is no different. In 2019, the American Lamb Board set out to create tools that will help the industry better tell the American lamb story, and the organization is now poised to debut these new tools on behalf of the industry.

The new tools, videos and a written narrative focus on why consumers can feel good about eating American lamb, highlight sheep and lamb production throughout history, emphasize how sheep and lamb are intrinsic to our existence, and explain the unique relationship among sheep, humans and other animals.

While a nine-minute video will serve as the central storytelling tool, ALB has developed a suite of materials – including a two-minute version of the video, six shorter-form social media clips, photography and a beautiful magazine-style print piece – that will anchor the digital content.

Click Here to watch the video.

 

 

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