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Sept. 27 ASI Weekly

 Pfliger Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee

Burton Pfliger, a past president of the American Sheep Industry Association, testified at the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. His testimony came during a full committee hearing concerning perspectives on the livestock and poultry sectors.

Starting with the issue of international trade, Pfliger reiterated the fact that ASI supports ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. But he also urged caution due to negative effects international trade could have on the domestic sheep industry.

“We have seen the benefits of trade and have made major progress first with the reopening of Taiwan and most recently with the reopening of Japan to American lamb,” Pfliger testified. “We have also experienced first-hand the detriments of trade as over half of the lamb consumed in the United States is imported. The vast amount of imported lamb distorts traditional market signals to producers for expansion and muddies price discovery. We support fair trade on a level playing field, and as the administration looks to negotiate future agreements with China, the European Union, the United Kingdom and others; we urge a cautious approach. We do not currently enjoy the ability to export U.S. lamb to many of these countries and most enjoy the benefit of direct or indirect subsidies to their sheep industry. We welcome the opportunity to compete, but we can only compete on a level playing field.”

Pfliger also addressed the ongoing trade war with China, which continues to have a dramatic effect on the American wool industry.

“Prior to the implementation of tariffs, 72 percent of U.S. raw wool exports and 80 percent of U.S. sheepskins were sent to China. Since the implementation of tariffs, we have seen raw wool exports drop by 85 percent and sheepskin exports drop by nearly 70 percent in value. Once a valuable asset, sheepskins now have either no value or more often result in a loss to producers at the processing level. Continuing to build strength in the international marketing of lamb and wool requires a commitment to the promotion and export of U.S. wool to export markets through strong USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Program funding. ASI is the cooperator with the FAS for American wool and sheepskins and finds success every year in securing customers through the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Program and the Quality Samples Program.”

Similar to testimony Texas producer Steve Salmon provided earlier this year to a U.S. House Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, Pfliger also touched on such topics as the Food and Drug Administration’s Minor Use Animal Drug Program, funding for Wildlife Services, bighorn sheep and their effects on public lands grazing allotments, the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, scrapie eradication, and the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program.

ASI Files H-2A Comments

The American Sheep Industry Association this week offered support for comments filed by Mountain Plains Agricultural Service and the Western Range Association regarding the Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in the United States. Comments were filed on proposed rules issued by the Department of Labor intending to make the worker program more efficient for use.

H-2A workers are critical to the American sheep industry as one-third of all sheep in this country are under the watch of H-2A shepherds. Shearing crews across the United States also employ H-2A workers and these men and women play a valuable role in getting American wool to market.

The comments address a number of technical proposed changes with support for several provisions that save time and funds and several that create more work or cost for the employers.  The groups’ comments on behalf of hundreds of their sheep rancher and sheep shearing crew members provide a large amount of education on current activities and operation of herding or shearing sheep to explain why some proposals are not helpful to the program.

Additionally, the comments advise the labor department on key issues with wage determination for both shearers and herders with specific suggestions of how to adjust so the industry can continue to employ H-2A workers.

“In 2015, as a result of litigation, the livestock herding industry participated in a notice and comment rulemaking that drastically changed the wage rate for herders,” read the comments from Mountain Plains. “While the method for wage determination mandated in the final rule accomplished the judge’s order, the industry is experiencing severe hardship due to the combined increase in both the wages and the cost of food and tools. Currently, the monthly adverse effect wage rate for herders is adjusted annually by the percent change in the ‘employment cost index’ published by the Bureau of Labor Standards. Additionally, employers of livestock herders are required to provide all food, housing, tools and equipment for H-2A employees. As a result, the employer is paying for both the increase in ‘employment cost index’ and the increase in ‘consumer price index.’ In essence the employer must give a ‘cost of living raise’ and then turn around and pay for the cost of living.

“Mountain Plains compels the Department of Labor to recognize this duplication in cost imposed on employers in livestock production and grant a wage credit for the provision of food. This would, in small part, mitigate the duplication in cost and would be consistent with the requirements placed on H-2A employers outside of range herding occupations.”

Click Here to learn more.

Minnesota Congressmen Introduce Wolf Legislation

Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson and Rep. Pete Stauber introduced on Thursday the Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2019 that would return management of the Western Great Lakes gray wolves to state control in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Choosing between protecting their livelihood or complying with a federal judicial decision is a choice no farmer should have to make. The gray wolf population should be managed by the states, where it belongs. This is practical, bipartisan legislation that balances safety with gray wolf population management and urges states to consult with tribes early and often when crafting management plans,” Peterson said.

Management of these gray wolves was transferred from the state to the federal level following two 2014 U.S. District Court decisions that reinstated gray wolves under the protections of the Endangered Species Act. These designations leave farmers and ranchers in those states without a legal avenue to protect their livestock from problem wolves.

“Despite its evident recovery, the gray wolf remains listed due to arbitrary judicial decisions made thousands of miles away from gray wolf territory. In Minnesota, keeping the gray wolf on the Endangered Species List threatens our very way of life, as the animal cannot be deterred while attacks on family-owned livestock and pets increase,” said Stauber. “Minnesotans know better than Washington bureaucrats on how to manage their own wildlife populations, which is why I am proud to join Congressman Peterson in introducing legislation that will empower state and tribal agencies to tailor a management plan that meet local needs.”

Sheep producers in the region applauded the proposed legislation.

“The continued listing of gray wolves restricts our states’ management options for private and public property and does nothing to enhance the recovery efforts for this species,” said John Dvorak, a member of the American Sheep Industry Association executive board and a past president of the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers. “These states have the resources and expertise to manage gray wolves working collaboratively with residents, ranchers and wildlife enthusiasts. The American sheep industry and Minnesota sheep producers like myself applaud Chairman Peterson’s leadership and strongly support the Gray Wolf State Management Act.”

USSA Offers Direct Marketing Webinar

The Suffolk U Webinar Series from the United Suffolk Sheep Association will present Direct Marketing Lamb to the Consumer on Monday, Sept. 30, beginning at 8 p.m. eastern time.

The free webinar will provide insight to anyone interested in selling direct to the consumer. Topics will include: knowing your potential market; understanding regulations; meeting the needs of your customer; and working with a processor.

Participants are encouraged to join the webinar via Zoom, which will allow them to interact with seminar leaders and participants. You can also watch live on the USSA Facebook page.

Click Here to register.

Australian Market Continues to Rise

The Australian wool market continued to track upward, recording increases for the third consecutive series. The national quantity reduced to 27,458 bales as fresh wool was bolstered by sellers holding wool and waiting for market improvement.

From the opening hammer on the first day in the Eastern centers it was apparent that large rises were in the cards. Main buyer interest was in the 18.5 micron and coarser range, resulting in these wools getting progressively dearer as the day wore on. All types and descriptions enjoyed similar rises as buyers scrambled for quantity. By day’s end, the individual Micron Price Guides of these wools rose by 60 to 90 cents in the East.

In the West – which sold last – the rise in the MPGs was 90 to 100 cents. On the back of these increases, the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator rose by 61 cents for the day. The second selling day was more subdued, with only marginal increases recorded. The EMI rose by a further 6 cents – adding 67 cents for the series – to close the week at 1,609 Australian cents. In the previous three weeks, the EMI has now clawed back 244 cents of the 379 cents it lost during the month of August.

Sellers were understandably keen to accept the increased prices, resulting in a national passed in rate of only 7.6 percent. Worth noting, the fleece market softened toward the end of the series, so much so that the Western region, again selling last, recorded falls of 30 to 70 cents on the final day. The skirtings followed a similar path to the fleece, strong competition helped to push prices by 40 to 70 cents.

Next week’s national offering has increased considerably as a result of the price rises, currently there is 40,999 bales rostered in Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.

Source: AWEX


Videos of the Week

The American Wool Council has released two educational videos that feature ASI consultant Dr. Roy Kettlewell as he discuses wool and why it’s the fabric designers choose first. The full-length video will be used to introduce wool to students in design programs across the United States. A condensed version of the 28-minute video is also available.

The American Sheep Industry Association would like to thank the following companies for providing footage used in the video: Brooklyn Tweed, Duckworth, Farm to Feet, Pendleton, Rambler’s Way and Voormi.

Click Here to watch the full video.

Click Here to watch the condensed version.

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