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Sheep Industry Requests Additional Congressional Funding

The American Sheep Industry Association, its state affiliates, the National Lamb Feeders Association and the Public Lands Council sent a letter to congressional leaders this week calling for additional support of the sheep industry in light of disruptions in the lamb and wool marketplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Specifically, we are asking that Congress raise the Commodity Credit Corporation’s borrowing authority from the current $30 billion and make funds available immediately to ensure USDA has, with the oversight of Congress, the ability to respond to the needs of our domestic food and fiber producers,” read the letter to the Senate and House majority and minority leaders. “As you are aware, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program developed and administered by the USDA has helped bridge the initial gap caused by the loss of consumer demand and uncertainty in the livestock markets.

“However, the relief USDA has been able to provide was limited due to funding restrictions and therefore only covered producer losses through mid-April with funding provided by the CARES Act. Additionally, CCC funds intended to compensate for on-going market disruptions have proven insufficient. Our industry continues to suffer greatly and USDA’s ability to respond to current and future losses as needed is critical to our producers’ ability to continue to operate through what are easily proving to be the most difficult economic times anyone alive has ever faced.

“Our initial estimated economic impact to the American sheep industry forecasts a loss of at least $353 million in 2020, and it is clear now that we will eclipse that number. We were pleased that lambs and yearlings (less than 2 years of age) and wool were included as eligible commodities under CFAP. Since the release of the program details, we have submitted additional data through the USDA’s Notice of Funds Availability filing in the Federal Register showing that replacement and cull ewes also exceeded the Department’s 5 percent loss threshold for eligibility under CFAP.

“The inclusion of replacement and cull ewes, even under the existing coverage dates, would significantly help our industry move toward recovery. This inventory class makes up nearly two-thirds of our sheep flock. That said, it is clear that to provide coverage to all segments and all regions of a widely diverse agricultural industry, a second (and possibly even subsequent) round of temporary assistance is necessary. Many producers in our industry are only now feeling the full effects of the pandemic’s impact; and as was the case for replacement and cull ewes, we are only now able to quantify those losses with sufficient economic data to meet the USDA’s threshold under CFAP.

“Therefore, we request that additional borrowing authority be made available through the CCC to allow the USDA to extend the CFAP, or similar temporary assistance, as well as any additional funding required to cover losses suffered by American agriculture post the current coverage eligibility; including the 2020 lamb, ewe and wool crops.”

Click Here for ASI’s COVID-19 Resources Page.


American Woolen Wins Army Uniform Contract

A Stafford Springs, Conn., woolen mill has won a $2 million military contract to make Army dress uniforms in a Pentagon initiative to strengthen industrial supply chains damaged by the coronavirus.

American Woolen Co. Inc. will produce polyester and wool blend fabric for the United States Army. The $187 million Department of Defense program is intended to back the defense workforce in shipbuilding, aircraft manufacturing and clothing and textiles and restore jobs lost as a result of the virus.

“This new investment to keep production of U.S. Army uniforms here at home, in eastern Connecticut, will help ensure that the men and women of our armed services have the resources they need no matter what,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, whose congressional district includes American Woolen.

Courtney – a member of the House Armed Services Committee – called American Woolen an “eastern Connecticut success story” that revitalized the historic Stafford Springs mill when it came close to shutting in 2014.

Jacob Harrison Long, chief executive officer of American Woolen, said the program demonstrates the Pentagon’s “commitment to invigorate the domestic textile industry” and support small, local businesses. American Woolen is starting production of the U.S. Army’s “Army Greens” uniform that recalls uniforms worn by soldiers during World War II.

Source: Hartford Courant

Click Here to read the full story.


Retail Sales a Bright Spot for Lamb Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for consumers to cook more meals at home and explore new products including lamb. New retail data released by the American Lamb Board quantifies the growth in retail sales for all lamb (domestic and imported) during the first quarter of 2020.

Retail sales data analyzed by IRI/FreshLook Marketing show pounds of all lamb sold at multi-outlet supermarkets in the United States in the 13-week period from Jan. 1 through April 19 increased 8.5 percent compared to the same period in 2019 – hitting 16.4 million pounds and $133.9 million in sales. As previously reported by ALB, Easter week sales of fresh lamb were strong with more than $19 million in sales across the United States.

Total dollars spent on all lamb at retail during the first 13 weeks of 2020 increased 13.4 percent. With prices on the increase for all meat categories, lamb held its own with consumers’ pocketbooks. In the most recent four-week period, all lamb dollars were up 11.7 percent and pounds purchased increased 3.4 percent during the same period one year ago.

While recent data helps quantify the short-term picture, the IRI/FreshLook analysis also looked at the longer term. Comparison of the current 52-week period to the prior 52 weeks shows a 2.8 percent increase in lamb pounds and a 3.6 percent increase in dollars.

Loin was the most popular lamb cut at 25 percent of pounds. This is an increase of 10.5 percent compared to last year. So far in 2020, ground lamb retail sales are tracking higher.

The northeastern states continue to lead the nation in lamb consumption, accounting for about 30 percent of dollar sales – up 6.8 percent compared to the previous 52 weeks. California saw the next largest increase at 5.6 percent, followed by the mid-south (4.2 percent).

The full Fresh Meat and Lamb Review report for retail sales through April 19 is available for the American Lamb industry at Members of the industry can apply for access by completing the online form.

Source: ALB 


USDA, FDA Continue to Monitor Food Safety

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., this week issued the following statement regarding food export restrictions pertaining to COVID-19:

“The United States understands the concerns of consumers here domestically and around the world who want to know that producers, processors and regulators are taking every necessary precaution to prioritize food safety especially during these challenging times. However, efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission.”

“There is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including product for export.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has issued guidance for manufacturing facilities, including food facilities, specific to controlling the spread of COVID-19 between workers. But the COVID-19 guidelines from CDC and OSHA are separate and distinct from the food safety requirements that all United States food facilities must follow to ensure food safety.

Source: USDA


Senators Seek Regulatory Relief in Meat Processing

A half dozen United States senators joined in a bipartisan letter asking U.S. Department of Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue to consider areas for regulatory and programmatic reform in the meat processing industry.

“When high-capacity processing facilities experienced outbreaks amongst employees, operations were forced to shut-off or slow down production, leaving the rancher with livestock they could not move and the consumer with either empty grocery shelves or overpriced products,” the senators wrote. “These pitfalls can be avoided in the future if we take action today to promote a diversified food supply chain. Regulations must be streamlined to remove barriers impeding small and medium-sized meat processors.”

The letter was led by Sen. Kevin Cramer (N.D.), and also signed by Ron Wyden (Ore.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), John Hoeven (N.D.), and Steve Daines (Mont.).

The letter comes a week after Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and representatives from West Virginia introduced a bill to open new markets for state-inspected meat – a companion bill to South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds’ legislation introduced a month ago.

Source: Northern Ag Network


Australian Market Slides into Season’s Close

The Australian wool market had its final sale of the 2019-20 season this week. Prices continued to deteriorate across the country. The individual Micron Price Guides in Sydney and Melbourne fell by another 5 to 38 cents.

Fremantle did not have a sale last week and, therefore, did not suffer the 40 to 50 cent losses experienced in the eastern markets. As a result, the losses in Fremantle this week were much larger, the western MPGs fell by 82 to 105 cents. Due to these losses, the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator fell by 29 cents.

The EMI finished the season at 1,110 Australian cents – a fall of 605 cents, which equated to a 35.3 percent reduction. When viewed in US dollar terms, the reduction was very similar, a 428-US cent fall, 35.8 percent lower. The national passed in rate finished the season at 17 percent. Due to falling prices, this was 6.5 percent higher than the previous season.

The total national offering for the season was 1,470,717 bales, which was 194,942 bales less than the previous season – a reduction of 11.7 percent. The total turnover for the year was well down, which was to be expected with reduced prices and offerings. The total turnover for the season was $1.973 billion, compared to $3.192 billion for the 2018-19 season.

The crossbred sector also recorded price reductions for the series. The MPGs for 26.0 through to 32.0 micron lost 20 to 38 cents for the week in Melbourne. The skirtings followed a similar path to the fleece, with prices generally falling by 30 to 50 cents. The three carding indicators fell by 38 cents. Next week is the first sale on the 2020-21 season. To avoid having a sale straddling two financial years, the sales have been moved to Wednesday and Thursday. There are currently 31,072 bales on offer in Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.

Source: AWEX


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