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ASI Calls for DOL to Reevaluate H-2A Changes

The American Sheep Industry Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council wrote to the Department of Labor this week to request that it reevaluate the economic impact of proposed changes to the H-2A sheepherder program.

“For well over fifty years, the livestock industry has relied on a legal guest workforce,” the groups wrote in a letter to Brian Pasternak, administrator for the Office of Foreign Labor Certification. “In fact, the American sheep industry pioneered the first guest herder program, in what would only later become the current H-2A guest worker program. While the program has undergone a number of changes in that time, our industries’ need for seasonal guest herders has not changed.

“While ASI, NCBA and PLC understand the implication of the court’s holding in the Hispanic Affairs Project litigation, and the department’s need for this rulemaking in light of the settlement reached in that matter, we believe the department has the latitude to ensure this program continues to work to serve the needs of the livestock industry and the interests of the American public.

“Both the cost of and access to skilled and qualified labor remain one of the largest impediments to the growth of the United States’ livestock inventory, our member’s ability to produce high-quality meat and fiber, and our ability to compete globally. Since the litigation, our members have seen their costs in securing sufficient labor increase significantly. This is not only a financial burden that renders our producer members less competitive, but it has also added a tremendous recordkeeping and administrative burden that is being borne by our producers and those agencies that help them secure needed guest herders.

“We believe that the proposed rule’s ‘economic impact’ section fails to assess the actual cost of this rule to livestock producers. As such, we urge the department to reevaluate that section in the final rule to consider the comments submitted by our members and affiliated organizations, specifically Mountain Plains Agriculture Service and Western Range Association.”

Click Here to read the full letter.


Sheep Center to Begin Accepting Grant Apps in July

The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center’s Board of Directors announced in June that it is accepting grant proposals from July 1 through Sept. 15. The grants must be designed to improve the American sheep industry.

The sheep center has budgeted about $300,000 to support projects consistent with the grant program. The average grant amount during the last four years has been about $29,000. Financial assistance provided by the sheep center must accomplish one or more of the following objectives:

  1. Strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products in the United States through the improvement of infrastructure, business, resource development and the development of innovative approaches to solve long term problems.
  2. Provide leadership training and education to industry stakeholders.
  3. Enhance sheep and sheep products in the United States through assistance to all segments of the industry to address sustainable production and marketing of sheep and sheep products.
  4. Promote marketing of sheep and sheep products through an organized method that can measure tangible results.
  5. Enhance the sheep industry by coordinating information exchange and by seeking mutual understanding and marketing within the industry community.

The sheep center will review each proposal, recommend funding and submit final recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service for approval.

For more information about applying for a grant, contact NSIIC Program Manager Steve Lee at 207-236-6567 or, or send mail to National Sheep Industry Improvement Center; 1578 Spring Water Way, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

The sheep center was established as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and was awarded funding by AMS to be used for the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Grant funding can be used on activities designed to strengthen and enhance the production or marketing of sheep and sheep products in the United States.

Additional information about the sheep center is available on the NSIIC website.


ASI SheepCast: WOTUS, Transportation, TSE Rule

This week’s SheepCast takes a look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s intention to draft a new Clean Water rule, transportation reauthorization moves through the House (and soon the Senate), and USDA responds to the industry’s request to review the TSE rule.

Click Here to listen to the podcast.


DNA Sampling for Katahdin Genomic Starts Strong

Tissue sample collection and submission for genomic-enhanced estimated breeding values is off to a strong start. For several months now, Katahdin breeders enrolled in the National Sheep Improvement Program have been learning all they can about genomic technology and how it can help with their selection strategies, giving them an important tool to increase the accuracy of their estimated breeding values.

The first batch of DNA samples were shipped by NSIP to Neogen in Nebraska on May 1 for genotyping. From the start, Katahdin NSIP members demonstrated their commitment to this advancement in genetic selection by submitting tissue samples from more than 900 individual sheep. Soon to be the first sheep breed to have GEBVs in the United States, Katahdins are once again breaking barriers and helping to advance the sheep industry. The success of the first batch of DNA sampling is thanks in large part to 20 dedicated breeders from12 different states.

This first submission was a bit complicated with the initial step of determining genomic-based parentage. In short, participating flocks provide tissue samples from potential (nominated) sires and dams then allow the genomic analysis to make the parentage assignments for each lamb with a DNA sample. In this first batch, Katahdin NSIP breeders recognized the importance of building their “genomic pedigrees” and submitted DNA samples from dozens of sires and dams. In addition, a significant number of current sires and dams from several member flocks have already been genotyped during the development of the 5,000 sheep genomic reference population for the breed. Those genotypes will be available for the determination of parentage, as well.

The Katahdin genomic reference population was built based on DNA samples from lambs (and their sires) collected during the parasite resistance research project spearheaded by Dr. Joan Burke primarily during the years of 2017 through 2019. No sampling was done in 2020, so organizers have been actively encouraging all NSIP flocks to collect tissue samples from sheep born during that gap year. More than 200 samples have been submitted from sheep born in 2020. A second batch of samples is tentatively scheduled to be submitted on July 15.

Katahdin NSIP breeders who have not yet submitted this year (late lambing flocks, for example) are likely to make up a significant portion of the next round of genotyping.

Click Here for more information.

Source: Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins


USDA Expands Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the state of South Dakota have finalized a Cooperative Interstate Shipment agreement, which provides an opportunity for selected state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines. Under the CIS agreement, South Dakota may inspect meat in selected establishments for shipment throughout the United States.

The CIS program was launched in 2012 under Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack after being authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. Currently, nine states participate in the program to promote the expansion of business opportunities for state-inspected meat and poultry establishments. Under CIS, selected state-inspected establishments that comply with federal inspection requirements are permitted to ship their product in interstate commerce.

“If we’re going to strengthen our nation’s food system and prevent supply chain bottlenecks before they occur, then we must continue to provide smaller meat processing establishments the opportunity to build their local and regional marketplaces,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin. “The Cooperative Interstate Shipment program is a little-known but powerful tool designed to diversify the marketplace for meat and poultry processors, while ensuring the safety of the meat and poultry products they produce. We want to work with other states to encourage participation in this important program.”

The CIS program is limited to establishments located in the 27 states that have established a Meat and Poultry Inspection program. To be eligible to participate in the CIS program, state MPI programs must meet a number of criteria to demonstrate that the inspection that it provides to state-inspected plants will be the “same as” the inspection that FSIS provides to official federal establishments.

By law, CIS establishments must employ fewer than 25 employees. The state recommends establishments for selection by FSIS for participation in the CIS program. FSIS verifies the state-inspected establishments comply with all the requirements under the federal statutes, including meeting the federal regulatory requirements for sanitation performance standards and developing written Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plans, and finalizes the establishments participating in the CIS program.

In addition to South Dakota, FSIS has signed agreements with Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Click Here for more information about CIS.

Source: USDA


Strong Week Continues Positive Run in Australian Wool Market

The Australian wool market recorded strong increases this week, with every sector posting rises. With only two centers in operation – Melbourne and Sydney – the national offering reduced to 36,288 bales. The smaller selection attracted strong buyer demand, and from the outset it was apparent that price rises were in the cards.

Prices opened strongly and then slowly but noticeably increased as the series progressed. The finer Merino fleece types again received the most attention and as a result recorded the largest increases. The individual Merino Price Guides for 18 micron and finer rose by 73 to 115 cents. The 18.5 micron and coarser fleece MPGs added between 18 and 75 cents for the series. These gains – combined with positive movements in all other areas – helped push the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator up by 50 cents. This was the largest weekly rise in the EMI since January. The EMI has now risen for four consecutive weeks and closed the series at 1,393 Australian cents. The last time the EMI was at a higher point was back in March of last year.

The skirtings followed a similar path to the fleece as general gains of between 40 and 90 cents were experienced. Again, 18 micron and finer were most affected. After suffering overall falls for the previous two months, all crossbreds recorded rises this week on the back of solid demand. The MPGs added between 7 and 26 cents. A 25-cent rise in the 32-micron MPG in the South was the largest increase in percentage terms for the series (+11.7 percent).

All four sectors of the market (Merino fleece, skirtings, oddments and crossbred fleece) recorded rises in their respective indicators. This was the first time since January that the market managed this feat. The jump in prices combined with the Fremantle region returning, has pushed the national offering up for next week to 45,341 bales.

Source: AWEX


ASI Comments on Bridger-Teton National Forest Plan

In a letter to Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Conner this week, the American Sheep Industry Association addressed support for a Forest Plan that aligns with a final report from the Wyoming Statewide Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group, but also expressed concerns about language used in the plan.

“ASI supports the Bridger-Teton National Forest in its efforts to provide Forest Plan direction in alignment with the Terms of Agreement outlined in the Final Report and Recommendations from the Wyoming Statewide Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group. Specifically, we support the agreement and applicable Wyoming State Statutes focusing on prioritizing bighorn sheep herds that are of high biological importance, while de-emphasizing other herds to achieve the overall goal of maintaining the health of bighorn sheep populations, while sustaining an economically viable domestic sheep industry.

“ASI urges the service to ensure Forest Plan amendment aligns with the current Wyoming State Statutes and the 2004 Wyoming Statewide Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group Plan. Moreover, ASI expresses concern that the proposed Forest Plan standard uses the term ‘native bighorn sheep home ranges’ without defining ‘home ranges.’ We would ask the service use the terminology outlined in the 2004 Working Group Plan, specifically to replace ‘home ranges’ with ‘core native herd management areas.’”

Click Here to read the full letter.


Ag Groups Seek Labor Reform

A coalition of 300 agricultural organizations – including the American Sheep Industry Association – sent a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate urging them to pass an agricultural labor reform bill this session.

“We must address this workforce crisis threatening farms across the United States so our producers can continue to feed, clothe and fuel our nation,” read the letter. “Doing so requires providing stability for our existing workers and key reforms to the H-2A program, the visa program farmers use to hire legal workers to supplement their U.S. workforce. We implore the Senate to put forward its ideas and solutions to pass legislation in a bipartisan manner to address our agricultural workforce challenges.

“Farmworkers, who have played an essential role throughout the pandemic, continue to face uncertainty in this country. U.S. agriculture needs a solution for farmworkers to stay and work in agriculture legally. Entire sectors of agriculture struggle to fill open jobs on the farm by not currently having access to the H-2A program due to its seasonal requirement. Producers with year-round labor needs must be eligible to participate in the H-2A guestworker program without arbitrary limits. The existing H-2A program is cumbersome and expensive. H-2A employers are required to pay workers a flawed survey-based wage rate set using data that does not take into account the value of other expensive mandated benefits. Farmers need a predictable wage rate that enables them to budget and ensure their businesses remain competitive in a global marketplace.”

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