Federal regs may hurt sheep producers

Nov 20, 2009

Federal regs may hurt sheep producers

Many of those who attended the Idaho Wool Growers Association’s 117th annual convention Nov. 6-8 in Sun Valley were surprised to learn that new U.S. Homeland Security regulations could block reliable documented Peruvian and Mexican workers from returning this month to the U.S. in time for the sheep industry’s crucial lambing season.

Stan Boyd, the association’s executive director, said he first learned of the federal twist in the rules on Wednesday, Nov. 4, right before the convention was to begin. Idaho’s congressional delegation now is scrambling to help unsnarl the development that could choke wool growers throughout the West.

The feds "have changed their time-out-of-countries requirement," which puts sheepherders in a bind, Boyd told the Western Livestock Journal. "We’d better get this resolved here pretty quick."

The offices of Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Reps. Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson all are busily working to clear the way for the migrant workers to be allowed soon into the country to help tend to the flocks, Boyd said.

About 140 people attended the convention’s banquet and many came to the various workshops that addressed various production issues and policy changes affecting their businesses. It was Boyd’s 31st convention.

"The industry remains strong when compared to other agriculture commodities. We’ve fared a little better during this economic downturn," Boyd said, noting the industry’s past volatility has settled somewhat.

While sheep prices are down $8 to $10 a cwt. from a year ago, wool prices have come back strong lately with Australia’s drought hurting that country’s sheep raisers and China emerging again as a wool buyer, he said.

Meetings started Friday afternoon with a seminar by Dr. Greg Lewis, director of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois. He discussed research topics pertaining to sheep.

Dr. Marie Bulgin of the University of Idaho (UI) Caine Center gave an overview of Johne’s Disease in range and farm flocks.

Kelly Crane, UI rangeland extension specialist, Gretchen Hyde of the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, and Linniea Collins, executive director of the Training of the Festival, gave updates about their respective programs.

Mary Hasenoehrl of the UI College of Ag & Life Sciences spoke about an endowment fund at a "Getting to Know Ewe" welcome reception which was new this year and where leg of lamb and hors d’oeuvres were served.

Saturday’s meetings focused on market trends, state and federal lands, and trade issues. Mark Rey, USDA undersecretary, was a keynote speaker. Randy Hammerstrom of USDA Market News reviewed the market, and Laird Noh presented his annual Rocky Mountain Sheep Marketing Report.

A state and federal lands panel featured Susan Giannettino, Idaho Bureau of Land Management deputy state director for resources; Kurt Houston, Idaho Department of Lands operations chief south; and Rick Forsman, U.S. Forest Service regional range program lead. Celia Gould, Idaho State Department of Agriculture director, hosted a legislative luncheon. Ken Wixom was installed as president at the banquet, succeeding Bulgin. Bill Hazen was given an industry appreciation award and Jim Unsworth, Idaho Department of Fish & Game deputy director, won the Henry Golden Boy Rifle.

During a Saturday afternoon lamb and wool general session, a big horn/domestic sheep panel featured Don Knowles, Washington State University, Dr. Glen Weiser, University of Idaho Caine Center, Cat Urbigkit, rancher/writer and Wyoming Big Horn/Domestic Sheep Interactions Working Group member, and Unsworth. Bill Myers, Holland & Hart, gave an overview of "Big Horn/Domestic Sheep in the Courtroom."

A panel led an animal damage and disease control general session. Panelists consisted of Mark Collinge, USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services state director, Dustin Miller, Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, Dar Olberding, Fish & Game advisory committee, and Unsworth.

Bill Taliaffero, American Sheep Institute (ASI) regional director, and Margaret Soulen-Hinson, ASI secretary/treasurer, gave an ASI update. The general session ended with a wool buyers panel and elections. The convention concluded Sunday morning with an Idaho Sheep Commission breakfast. Dr. Debra Lawrence, Idaho Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Industries, also spoke at it.

"We had a good convention. All things considered, it was a really good turnout," Boyd said. — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent