Opinion by Soulen-HinsonWritten by Margaret Soulen-Hinson
By Margaret Soulen Hinson, ASI President
American sheep producers are dedicated to their craft. Working together has long been a trademark of the industry, but even more so the last 10 years with the industry-wide American Lamb Board (ALB) and the launch of nationwide initiatives that all sectors participate in, such as the scrapie eradication program.
ALB, with support of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and additional organizations such as the California Wool Growers Association, is leading a planning committee of lamb producers, feeders, processors and academia to discuss options of a lamb industry summit. A summit as first proposed by the California association would be a key opportunity to discuss lamb-market issues from price volatility to the current backlog in slaughter lambs and quality topics.
The committee is to meet Sept. 6 in Denver, Colo., and decide upon the timing and format of a summit. This committee will be looking at presenters, speaker panels, analysts and reports, in addition to a potential option to first form a taskforce, to work on lamb-industry recommendations and report to a summit this winter. Either way, the planning group would seek a way to define the current market challenges and look at long-term solutions to avoid this situation in the future. Those representing lamb producers that will be attending include Nancy East, DVM, California; Butch Theos, Colorado; Marsha Spykerman, Iowa; Pierce Miller, Texas; Richard Hamilton, California; Burdell Johnson, North Dakota; Wes Patton, California; Don Van Nostran, Ohio; Lisa Webster, Maine; and Clint Krebs, Oregon.
The academia members of the committee include David Notter, Ph.D., West Virginia University; Henry Zerby, Ph.D., The Ohio State University; and Dan Morrical, Ph.D., Iowa State University. The lamb-feeder members are Richard Drake, Harold Harper and Mike Harper, all from Colorado. And the processors include Ed Jenks, Superior; Dennis Stiffler, Mountain States Rosen; and Kevin Quam, JBS.
I appreciate all of these participants taking time away from their businesses to help facilitate these discussions.
An additional meeting concerning the lamb industry took place last month with the Tri-Lamb Group in Idaho. Sheep producers from the United States, Australia and New Zealand formed this group in 2003 to collaboratively explore opportunities to enhance the profitability of the lamb market in the United States. The group has spent much of its resources these past few years building a program focused on the nutritional benefits of lamb and extending it to target consumers. This program is designed to increase consumer demand for lamb and increase lamb’s share of the protein dollar.
Currently, there is a lot of discussion around the meat business regarding imported product so hopefully this meeting with the foreign producers provides key points about the value of the American market.
Some good news to share about the lamb market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a second invitation to buy lamb product for use in federal food and nutrition programs. This offer applies to lamb leg roasts and lamb shoulder chops for November delivery and represents the balance of nearly $400,000 available from the $2 million ASI secured this year to strengthen lamb prices. In addition, USDA announced in August its intent to purchase up to $170 million of meat and fish for federal food nutrition assistance programs. The lamb industry’s share of this buy can be up to $10 million. This is the largest amount of funds for a single-market period that we have been able to secure in the more than 15 years that ASI has been working with this program. We appreciate the department for including a significant piece of this livestock assistance, specifically for lamb, as there was a lot of competition for funds from other proteins.