Loan deficiency payments for wool included in House ag committee farm bill.

In a significant milestone for the U.S. sheep industry, the House Agriculture Committee this week approved a wool loan program in its version of the next Farm Bill. The bill includes a provision for a nonrecourse marketing assistance loan program for wool and mohair. The program includes a loan rate of not more than $1.00 per pound for tested wool and not more than .40 per pound for non-tested wool. The mohair loan rate is set at not more than $4.20 per pound.

Loans would be repaid at a rate that is the lesser of the loan rate established for the commodity plus interest, or at a rate that the Secretary determines will minimize forfeitures, accumulation of stock, storage costs and that allows the commodity to be marketed freely and competitively. Loan deficiency payments also are authorized.

"We are very pleased to see the inclusion of the wool marketing assistance loan program in the House version of the Farm Bill," American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Executive Director Peter Orwick said. "The program is one that ASI developed in conjunction with the Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers and Texas A&M University. Since the August, and then the January board meetings, the House Ag Committee leadership authorized the legislation for the ten-year farm bill."

Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33 ASI testifies on farm bill at Senate committee hearing American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Vice President Frank Moore presented testimony on the upcoming Farm Bill at a July 24th Senate Committee on Agriculture hearing. Moore's testimony was similar to testimony ASI presented at a House Committee hearing last week.

Moore's testimony on behalf of ASI requested an average loan rate of $1.20 for wool and $4.20 for mohair and emphasized establishing a payment provision for non-tested wool. Such a provision would provide an avenue for all producers to participate without inefficient testing of off-sort wool or small lots, which is particularly important to the farm flock sector.

Moore reiterated the serious depressed state of the wool industry in the United States with the average price of wool falling from 38 cents per pound in 1999 to 33 cents in 2000, the lowest price in 30 years and the lowest price since 1971 without adjustment for inflation.

The hearing also presented an opportunity for ASI to discuss the severe price situation in the lamb market, as well as to make comments about mandatory price reporting and the yet-to-be-announced lamb checkoff.

The Senate Committee is expected to work on its version of the farm bill this fall and into 2002. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33 Wool payments included in emergency spending measure approved by Senate.

Nearly $17 million for wool payments was included in a $7.5 billion emergency farm assistance measure approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee this week. The wool payments are for the 2002 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The Senate-approved package is approximately $2 billion more than the version recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The extra funding would require dipping into farm program funds for fiscal 2002, which begins Oct.1.

The week beginning July 30 could bring floor action in the Senate so the bill can be conferenced with the House-passed legislation. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33 Bid for Australian wool stockpile rejected Members of the Australian wool industry were surprised this week when WoolStock, the company which manages the liquidation of Australia's wool stockpile, rejected bids for the remaining 98,000 bales. .

WoolStock chair Donald McGauchie said the board rejected the bids because they believe WoolStock will receive higher bids for the bales down the road, which in turn would result in higher returns for WoolStock security holders.

McGauchie told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that any further offers will be evaluated against Woolstock's business plan, but he's expecting an active sales period for the next few weeks as the amount of wool in reserve gets lower.

The Australian wool stockpile peaked a few years ago at almost 5 million bales. Staff contact: Rita Kourlis Samuelson, ext. 29 Foot-and-mouth disease price tag for UK about $3 billion .

The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom (UK) will cost British taxpayers approximately $3 billion before it is eradicated. That works out to about $56 a head for every resident in the UK.

The price tag includes the cost of killing and disposing of animals, disinfecting diseased premises and compensating farmers for slaughtered livestock. At last count, UK authorities had diagnosed 1,842 cases of FMD. "Powerline" sheep return for fourth season .

Pop quiz: How you do keep 25,000 acres of land underneath power lines free of circuit-cutting trees? Answer: Bring in the sheep! That's precisely what Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) is doing, and it speaks from experience. Since 1998, PSNH has been utilizing the services of tree- and weed-whacking sheep to control vegetation under its transmission rights-of-way.

The sheep are owned by Dick Henry, a former shepherd and current president of Bellwether Solutions, a company that devises natural methods for solving troubling environmental problems. Henry got the idea for leasing his sheep after hearing about a program in Europe in which sheep are used to keep deciduous trees and herbaceous vegetation in conifer stands in check.

Each year, about one-fifth of PSNH's 1,800 miles of power-grid rights-of-way are cleared at a cost of about $2.5 million. While PSNH still uses mechanical mowers and hand-cutting to get the jobs done, the Power Grazing Project has grown every year. In fact, this year the number of sheep used has doubled to about 1,200.

PSNH is not alone. Throughout the United States, sheep and goats are used to control a variety of vegetation, from reducing kudzu in the South to eliminating fire fuel in and around the Angeles National Forest in California. Lamb: In like a lion . .

The meat once reserved for special occasions, inevitably paired with the oh-so-expected mint jelly, is making a comeback on American tables. In fact, lamb is now the celebrated new kid on the block. That's the message Santé, the magazine for restaurant professionals, delivered to its 25,000 readers through its June/July edition.

Writer Erika Connell noted the attributes of American lamb, such as its milder flavor, larger-sized cuts and higher meat-to-bone ratio, which translates into better yields and cost efficiencies.

The American Sheep Industry Association's American Lamb Council was listed as an information source in the article. Staff contact: Lisa Jager, ext. 35.

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