Today, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote – following the Senate’s unanimous passage late on Wednesday evening – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. While this relief bill is massive – touching nearly every aspect of American business – for America’s sheep producers there were critical components.
While the bill fell short of the American Sheep Industry Association’s request to increase the Commodity Credit Corporation by $20 billion, the bill did replenish $14 billion in funding to stabilize and support farm income and prices. In addition, $9.5 billion in funding was directed to be used for livestock and specialty crops.
Since the initial wool market disruptions in September 2018, ASI has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include wool and sheepskins under USDA relief programs. The department chose to commit purchases of $17 million in lamb meat for donation and on Feb. 19 announced lamb shanks would be considered for a solicitation of companies. With the loss of foodservice accounts for lamb, the association is encouraging urgent and aggressive use of the purchase funds.
With the additional funding directed toward livestock producers headed to President Donald J. Trump’s desk, ASI is continuing to work with USDA to develop a program for direct relief to sheep producers for losses not only to wool and sheepskins, but also to lamb prices. Given the passage of assistance for livestock specifically, ASI is optimistic about this process. As food service sales account for more than half the value of American lamb, this loss is creating dramatic changes in distribution already. Additionally, one of the largest lamb companies filed for bankruptcy shortly after food service orders were cancelled this month. As the industry heads into the period of highest American lamb consumption – Easter – this impact will only rise for our industry.
The American Lamb Board has shared additional fallout, including the lack of sales in markets around the country as smaller lamb processing facilities realize the loss of their foodservice relationships with some entirely dedicated to restaurants and foodservice. Voluntary price reporting by USDA is contracting at sale barns and objective measurement of wool is absent again due to the world-wide pandemic.
In addition, ASI continues to work with various federal agencies to ensure needed flexibility as the industry produces food and fiber for a nation in need. USDA and the Department of State are working together to continue processing H-2A cases as much as possible, as permitted by resources and government restrictions.
On the federal lands front, ASI and the Public Lands Council have been assured by both the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management that they have taken steps to ensure on time turnout. ASI has also requested specific flexibility to run greater band numbers to respond to a lack of H-2A guest herders, which has been specifically included in grazing management recommendations issues to regional foresters by the service.
Additionally, the Department of Transportation has released a series of waivers under its emergency declaration. This action includes waivers to Hours of Service for agriculture, including livestock, feed and fertilizer to ensure a steady stream of commerce. Many states have also relaxed state regulations on CDL, driving hours and truck weight requirements for livestock and agricultural products.
The key takeaway is that there is a tremendous appetite to ensure flexibility for sheep producers, from federal lands grazing, production and transportation. If you experience a challenge to federal lands grazing, federal transportation requirements or other federal issues, please reach out to the ASI office.
ASI is an equal opportunity employer. It is the national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of more than 88,000 sheep producers.
American Sheep Industry Association
9785 Maroon Circle, Suite 360, Englewood, CO 80112
Phone: 303-771-3500 — Fax: 303-771-8200 — Sheepusa.org