The discussion during last month’s 2016 American Sheep Industry Association Convention spotlighted several major issues brought forward by the large attendance of sheep producers from across the country.
“The focus of our meeting this year was current events and current issues,” said ASI President Burton Pfliger. “Agriculture and the sheep industry in particular are facing the new veterinary feed directive, protecting ourselves from liability claims associated with working dogs and keeping our markets transparent. All of these topics, plus many more, were given center stage at our meetings in Scottsdale.”
The H-2A sheepherder program was the industry’s top issue of 2015, and an educational outreach session about the program drew an enormous crowd when officials from the Department of Labor discussed the new regulations.
Although the program does maintain many of the key industry provisions, the new regulations include the implementation of several dramatic changes that have required clarification and practical-use explanations. Ranchers have begun working with their bankers to adjust to the considerable wage increase but, just as importantly, they are asking the Washington, D.C. officials and the Chicago office field staff to further clarify the changes and to ensure they share the same interpretation of the new protocols.
The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) Sheep and Goat Report, which revealed that the 2016 sheep and lamb inventory has increased one percent from the beginning of 2015 was an exciting topic of discussion during the week. This marks a consecutive two-year increase, and brings inventory numbers up from 5.21 million to 5.32 million.
Other topics of interest during the event related to the U.S. sheep industry’s decision to retain mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for lamb, despite the recent repeal of the COOL Labeling Law for beef and pork, the launch of Working Dog Liability Insurance, a special insurance coverage designed to protect producers choosing to use guardian dogs and herding dogs to utilize non-lethal tools in the management of predatory kills of sheep and lambs from liability claims, and the impact producers can expect to feel on their operations once the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) requirement becomes effective in January of 2017.