ASA reviews top sheep stories of 2012
The American Sheep Industry Association selected the following as the top 10 sheep stories of 2012.
1. Worst drought in 50 years. Sixty-five percent of the United States suffered from the impact of the drought in 2012. Feed prices soared to record highs as pastures and rangelands quickly depleted and water sources dried up for sheep operations. Producers and feeders sought alternate grazing and feedstuffs across the nation with some forced to send lambs to market early or reduce ewe flocks.
2. $12 Million lamb purchase. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service approved a "mega purchase" of American lamb meat for food assistance centers to help reduce the backlog of supply and shore up prices for sheep farmers and ranchers. As requested by the American Sheep Industry Association, the department funded $12 million in purchases that two lamb companies agreed to deliver from August 2012 through June 2013. Most of the funding was approved in the administration's drought assistance package for farmers and ranchers.
3. International wool industry comes to the U.S. In May, the American Wool Council hosted the 81st annual International Wool Textile Organization Congress, themed Wool in the City, in New York City. The wool communities from 23 countries were provided a forum to discuss trends and new opportunities in the international wool industry.
4. U.S. senators support sheep industry. With price swings exceeding normal boundaries and an insurance product that does not appear to be offering price protection as intended, senators from eight states sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting an investigation in market anomalies, much-needed corrections to its livestock risk-protection insurance and a push for increased lamb exports.
5. Simpson pulls bighorn language. Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (Idaho) removed language from the House appropriations bill that would have extended a bighorn sheep provision prohibiting the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from making decisions that negatively affect domestic sheep grazing due to the management of bighorn sheep.
6. Bighorn research. Funding for Bighorn and Domestic Sheep Interface Risk Analysis: Public Land Grazing and Comparative Immune System Investigation was funded by ASI and the Public Lands Council. The research is being completed in cooperation with USDA's Animal Research Service's Animal Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Wash., and the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho. The research is critical to resolving the conflict that threatens grazing for 20 percent of the entire sheep industry. Over half of the $90,000 currently invested in the research was made available by contributions from hundreds of individual sheep producers, feeders and affiliated companies.
7. Lamb summit. The American Lamb Board convened a committee of lamb packers, processors, feeders, producers and affiliated industry organizations to discuss current market challenges in the industry. The board has since matched funds with the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center to finance an assessment of the challenges and identify strategies to reverse the decline in demand of American lamb and to improve the system to keep the domestic lamb industry viable, competitive with imports and profitable in the future.
8. Sheep take over Bryant Park in NYC. In cooperation with ASI, 30 sheep were brought from upstate New York to New York City's Bryant Park as part of the Campaign for Wool, an initiative Prince Charles of Wales started in 2008 to tout the advantages of sheep worldwide. The event raised visibility for wool as a fiber for all applications.
9. Sheep industry complies with animal disease traceability rule. USDA announced a final rule establishing general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate. The identification system currently required as part of the National Scrapie Eradication Program will be recognized as compliant with the new animal disease traceability regulations.
10. Sheep webinars kick off. As part of the Let's Grow initiative, ASI, in coordination with Jay Parsons, Ph.D., Colorado State University and Optimal Ag, and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, offered three different webinars for producer participation. Hundreds of sheep producers have participated in the webinars this year and the sessions can be accessed at www.SheepAgriculture.com/?cat=9.