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Convention Theme Permeates Week in Scottsdale

Reverence for the Past, Innovation for the Future was more than just a theme for the 2020 American Sheep Industry Association Annual Convention. Sheep industry leaders from across the United States came together Jan. 22-25 at the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Plaza Resort to put those words into action.

Front and center was the ASI Board of Directors’ financial support of a commercial wool testing lab at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in San Angelo, Texas. The American wool industry has been researching the need to continue wool testing in a facility in the United States for the last couple of years. In 2019, wool industry leaders met first in San Angelo to discuss options, and later traveled to New Zealand to tour that country’s testing facility.

While the New Zealand facility will be open to American wool producers in 2020, the goal is to have the lab in San Angelo test the 2021 wool clip. Texas A&M leadership supports the idea and provided a six-figure financial package, as well as existing building and some personnel related to the research that is conducted there today. The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center and ASI’s for-profit Sheep Venture Company are partnering on a commitment of $150,000 in grant money toward laboratory setup and training costs, while ASI will contribute $50,000 of wool funds.

“I think it’s amazing that such a small organization was able to come together and commit $200,000 to ensure we have access to wool testing in the United States.” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick. “Most of the American wool clip could not compete in the domestic or international markets without objective measurement, and the ASI leadership is pleased to support the wool experts at the university to provide this service.”

While details of the new lab put a nice bow on the final day of the convention, attendees were indoctrinated with the week’s theme from the outset. Thursday’s opening session provided a panel discussion with four industry innovators who built on the foundations established by their parents and grandparents and have worked to expand and grow those operations in ways their predecessors might never have imagined.

Producers Reed Anderson of Oregon, David Fisher of Texas, John Helle of Montana and Ryan Mahoney of California formed the panel. Each gave a presentation on where their operations began and worked from there to show how they’ve innovated from what were most often humble beginnings. Helle and his family earned the 2019 ASI Industry Innovation Award for developing the Duckworth clothing line that promotes a “sheep to shelf” dynamic that has proven popular with consumers. Anderson won the innovation award this year for building his own lamb processing facility to eliminate a bottleneck in his supply chain.

While Anderson and Helle looked to create new businesses to sustain their sheep industry involvement, Fisher and Mahoney are developing new programs and implementing new technology within their flocks to increase productivity and secure the bottom line. In many cases, that meant adding the use of technology, but Mahoney offers one key piece of advice.

“Get what works for you,” he said.

ASI is following that advice, as well, in two key areas with the development of the American Wool Assurance Program and the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan. Wool standard programs have been popping up across the globe in recent years – mostly at the request of manufacturers and retailers – to show that wool is harvested in a responsible manner. With that in mind, ASI is working with Colorado State University to develop a wool standard that works for both producers and the companies who purchase, manufacture and sell wool. While the program is still in the developmental stage, Dr. Jason Ahola from CSU was on hand to discuss preliminary findings with wool producers in several meetings during the week.

The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan being developed by ASI in conjunction with Iowa State University is aimed at dealing with a possible disease outbreak within the sheep industry. Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle – who was on hand for the Production, Education and Research Council meeting last week – is working on disaster plans, as well as educational handouts, a website and more that will allow the sheep industry to come together to stop the spread of an infectious disease outbreak.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears made her first speech of 2020 at the convention when she spoke to the ASI Board of Directors Informational Session on Friday afternoon and addressed two issues important to the sheep industry: fake protein and spring lamb. Brashears said USDA is working to address labeling of cell- and plant-based proteins, and that she expects a decision on the spring lamb petition in the next month or two.

In other association business, each of ASI’s eight regions met for individual caucuses, and three of those regions were tasked with electing new representatives to the ASI Executive Board. Region I elected Laurie Hubbard of Pennsylvania, Region III elected Anne Crider of Illinois and Region V elected Tammy Fisher of Texas. They were each elected to serve two-year terms on the board, and will be eligible for reelection to a second, two-year term.

Retiring Executive Board members Don Kniffen of New Jersey, John Dvorak of Minnesota and Bob Buchholz of Texas were all honored for their years of service to the industry during the Saturday board meeting.

The Make It With Wool National Finals and Awards Banquet closed out the week on Saturday night. The Senior Winner and MIWW Ambassador for 2020 was Charlotte Waldron of Ohio. The Junior Winner and MIWW Ambassador was Madeline Douglas of Indiana. Meighan Stevens of Ohio was the Adult Winner, while Yiling Lai of Drexel University was the 2020 Fashion/Apparel Design Winner.

Look for full coverage of the 2020 ASI Annual Convention in the March issue of the Sheep Industry News.


Awards Handed Out at ASI Annual Convention

North Carolina sheep producer Bill Sparrow Jr. attended what was billed as the “First American Sheep Industry Convention” in San Antonio, Texas, in 1988. It was nearly his last sheep convention.

“I got home on Jan. 24 and on the 25th our middle child was born. Had the timing of that been a little different, you might have never seen me again,” he joked in accepting the American Sheep Industry Association’s Distinguished Producer Award last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., during the ASI Annual Convention.

While the National Wool Growers Association – the predecessor to ASI – has held conventions dating back to 1865, the 1988 convention marked the first that brought together NWGA and its auxiliary along with the American Sheep Producers Council and the National Lamb Feeders Association. NWGA and ASPC would later merge to form ASI.

“Over the years of my association with this organization, I have met people from nearly every state in the nation,” Sparrow said. “It’s been a pleasure to be involved with the sheep industry, and I look forward to being a part of this organization for many years to come.”

Sparrow was joined on the winner’s stage by: Frank Moore of Wyoming, McClure Silver Ram Award winner; Reed Anderson of Oregon, Industry Innovation Award winner; Mike Caskey of Minnesota, Camptender Award winner; Lane Nordlund of Montana, Shepherd’s Voice Broadcasting Award winner; and Susan Crowell of Ohio, Shepherd’s Voice Print Award winner.

Moore was one of several winners who mentioned the awards should be presented to husband-and-wife teams, since the wives are the ones left to deal with the farm or ranch when their husbands are away attending sheep conventions.

“It’s been an honor. I’m not going to say a lot, but know that this is appreciated,” Moore said. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to serve the sheep industry.”

Anderson is the largest sheep producer, lamb processor and sheep industry supporter in Brownsville, Ore., according to NLFA Past President Bob Harlan, but his impact goes way beyond that small town.

“I’m really just a plagiarizer, not an innovator. My family are the ones who really do all the work,” said the humble Anderson, who went on to add, “All of the people in this room had something to do with our success. Thank you.”

Caskey spent more than 40 years educating sheep producers through the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program in southwest Minnesota. And despite the role he played in their successes, Caskey was quick to credit the program’s producers.

“They were the ones who embraced new technology and new ideas 40 years ago,” he said. “Those producers are the ones I really need to thank. As a group, they’ve been so willing to share what they’ve learned.

As Cox said in introducing him, Lane Nordlund seems to be everywhere while “carrying our message, which he does so well.”

The Montana Ag Network reporter said the ASI Annual Convention is his favorite among the stops he makes each year covering agriculture and livestock not only in Montana, but across the nation.

“That’s because of the friendships I’ve made here,” he said. “I’m honored to be recognized for mine and Russell’s (Nemetz) work on television.”

Susan Crowell retired last year as editor of Farm and Dairy, an Ohio-based ag newspaper, but her commitment to the industry lives on. In her acceptance speech, she urged producers to “Be bold.”

“Now’s not the time to be timid,” she said.

In addition to these awards, the Wool Roundtable chose Aggie and Joe Helle as winners of the 2020 Wool Excellence Award. The Montana couple worked diligently to develop their own fine wool flock while also looking for ways to serve the industry.


American Sheep Inventory Down 1 Percent

According to the latest USDA Sheep and Goat Report released today, the total sheep and lamb inventory in the United States was down 1 percent to 5.2 million head as of Jan. 1. Shorn wool production for 2019 was down 2 percent to 24 million pounds.

Click Here for the full report.


SheepCast Talks Convention with ASI’s Orwick

This week, the American Sheep Industry Association SheepCast visits with ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick about the annual convention and highlights some key industry initiatives. The podcast also looks at the future of wool testing, the American Wool Assurance Program, trade and regulation.

Click Here to listen to the podcast.


California Wool Growers Needs Executive Director

The California Wool Growers Association is looking to fill its open position of executive director.

The position’s principal responsibility is to represent association members by carrying out policies and programs adopted by the membership and the board of directors. Additionally, the position will serve as the executive director of the California Pork Producers Association through the management agreement agreed to by both boards of directors. The position is located in Sacramento, Calif.

For questions, contact Erica Sanko at or 916-444-8122.

Click Here for the full job description.


PLC Names Glover as Executive Director

The Public Lands Council – a national trade association representing 22,000 ranchers who raise cattle and sheep on federal land – announced this week that Kaitlynn Glover has joined the organization as its executive director.

In this role, Glover will serve as the chief lobbyist for the organization, representing cattle and sheep producers in western states on resource issues affecting their operations. The robust legislative and regulatory portfolio focuses on protecting grazing on federal land, and includes the Clean Water Act, tax policy, the Endangered Species Act, property rights and other matters that affect livestock production in the West.

“I’m passionate about the work of the Public Lands Council and look forward to working with the incredible leaders who volunteer their time to lead the organization,” said Glover. “My top priority will continue to be executing the policy developed by public lands grazers across the West to ensure a strong future for agriculture and healthy public lands. I look forward to leveraging my experience and bringing new perspectives to the many important issues impacting the West.”

Glover comes to PLC from Sen. John Barrasso’s (Wyo.) office and brings additional experience in international affairs from her work with the agricultural semi-state authority in Ireland. Originally from Wyoming, Glover has strong ties to grazers, recreationalists and many other users of public land resources.

Source: PLC


Coronavirus Wreaks Havoc on Australian Wool Market

Global health concerns have impacted the Australian wool market this week. The outbreak of the coronavirus has forced multiple countries to enforce travel restrictions, severely impacting the workforces of many overseas mills. This has created uncertainty among many large importers of Australian wool, which in turn has affected the buying confidence of local exporters.

The lack of buyer confidence was immediately apparent when the markets opened on the East Coast. The finer microns were the hardest hit, opening to reductions of 80 to 100 cents when compared to the previous sale. By the end of the day, the individual Micron Price Guides across the country had fallen by 29 to 131 cents – 18.0 micron and finer recording the largest losses. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator lost 56 cents for the day – the largest daily fall in the EMI since August of last year.

The sharp drop in prices was met with firm seller resistance and the national fleece passed in rate was 48.8 percent. The drop in the market prompted many sellers to withdraw their wool from sale – nationally 25 percent of the fleece catalogue was withdrawn prior to sale. The reduction in quantity put extra pressure on the remaining lots, which in turn sparked a recovery.

On the second selling day, the market recouped some of the losses experienced on the previous day. The MPGs in all three centers added 15 to 65 cents, finishing the series on a positive note. The EMI added 28 cents for the day but still finished in negative territory for the week, falling by 28 cents to close at 1,548 Australian cents.

The skirtings traveled a similar path to the fleece – large losses on the first day, followed by positive movements on the second – resulting in weekly losses of between 30 and 50 cents.

Source: AWEX


ALB Elects New Leadership

The American Lamb Board elected Fiscal Year 2020 leadership at its Jan. 22 meeting, held ahead of the American Sheep Industry Association Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz. The newly elected chair is Gwendolyn Kitzan of South Dakota and the vice chair is David Quam of Texas. Elected for a second term as secretary is Greg Deakin of Illinois and the treasurer is Rob Rule of Iowa.

This meeting marked the retirement of four directors, all of whom have served the maximum of six years: Jim Percival, Ohio; Dale Thorne, Michigan; Diane Peavey, Idaho; and Greg Ahart, California. Joining the board, all for their first term, are: Jeff Ebert, Kansas; Gary Visintainer, Colorado; Donald Hawk, Ohio; and Travis Anderson, Oregon.

The additional board members are: Elizabeth Dressler, Colorado; Tom Colyer, Massachusetts; Peter Camino, Wyoming; Sally Scholle, Pennsylvania; and Brad Anderson, Colorado.

Source: ALB

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