Sheep industry, Wyoming sheep producers attend annual ASI
Charleston, S.C. – “The American Sheep Industry is a national voice for the sheep industry and sheep producers across the United States,” said Amy Hendrickson, executive director of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association. “It is a place for sheep producers to communicate with other states as to what is happening in the industry.”
The theme for the 2014 annual American Sheep Industry (ASI) convention was “Weaving a Path to the Future,” and there was a record attendance at the convention that was held on Jan. 22-25 in Charleston, S.C.
ASI is the national organization that represents the interests of more than 82,000 sheep producers located throughout the United States and works to represent the interests of all producers.
It is a federation of 45 state sheep associations, as well as individual members. ASI is comprised of all producer volunteer officers, board of director members, council and committee members.
Hendrickson stated Wyoming had a good contingent of people representing the state at the ASI convention.
University of Wyoming’s Extension Educators Bridger Feuz, Hudson Hill and Barton Stam attended ASI to speak about pasture and range improvement and challenges producers face that affect profitability and long-term sustainability.
Many sectors of the sheep industry were at the ASI, including the National Lamb Feeders Association, National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, American Lamb Board, Western Range Association and the Food and Fiber Risk Managers.
Other represented sectors at ASI were the National Livestock Producers Association Sheep and Goat Fund Committee, American Goat Federation, ASI Women and the National Make It With Wool contest.
“The ASI is a great way for producers to be able to talk about the problems that they are having and have a national voice on the issues that become of national concern,” explained Hendrickson.
Concerns that were being discussed with the ASI’s board of directors were the two sets of proposed trade agreements currently being negotiated by the U.S. of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).
Producers are concerned that the unauthorized goods coming from China thru the TPP countries could impact the textile industry and the future of U.S. wool.
“ASI has a strong presence in Washington, which is helpful for us sheep producers,” said Hendrickson.
Sheep producer Jeanne Carver of Imperial Stock Ranch in Oregon shared her heart-felt story to the ASI about having her wool sourced by Ralph Lauren for use at the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Carver teamed up with Ralph Lauren to create hand-knit sweaters for the athletes to wear for the opening ceremony.
Multiple tours were available to attendees of the convention to let them see the transformation of raw wool into high-end finished products and to tour the city of Charleston.
One of the tours was of the plant Chargeurs Wool USA where wool goes through the superwash processing line that will make the wool machine washable without the risk of shrinking.
The tour then went on to Burlington Industries where attendees saw the wool being made into fabric.
“Chargeurs is the only super wash system in the United States,” said Hendrickson. “It was a great tour, especially to see the wool blend being made for the U.S. military uniforms.”
Other tours showed attendees a cargo port where American grease wool is shipped to international customers at a value of more than $63 billion annually. Attendees could also have taken a one-hour horse drawn carriage ride through Charleston’s historic downtown district.
A program that is in its third year at the ASI that Hendrickson hopes more young sheep producers will become a part of is the Young Entrepreneurs Committee.
This program was designed to bring relevance to the day-to-day operations for sheep producers between the ages of 25 and 40 that have small and large flocks of sheep.
Another program Hendrickson mentioned available through the ASI is the Let’s Grow Campaign. This campaign is also in its third year and has reached thousands of sheep producers across the country.
Topics covered in sessions for this program ranged from parasite management, reducing labor and marketing options to feeding for fiber production.
The new breeding-sheep loan program developed by the National Livestock Producers Association with ASI support was also presented to the campaign committee.
Wyoming contestants at the National MIWW
Nicole Macy from Pine Bluffs and Ashlynn Johnson from Encampment participated in the National Make It With Wool (MIWW) contest that was held in Charleston, S.C. on Jan. 22-25.
Macy was awarded Second Runner-Up in the Senior Division and among her prizes was a Brother sewing machine. She was also presented a cash award by the Mohair Council of America and sponsoring Mohair producers for her use of a mohair blend fabric for her jacket.
The national style show also featured a photo presentation in memory of Roxana Johnson, who served as the Wyoming MIWW State Director for 18 years.
It was a special honor for Wyoming to have one of Johnson’s granddaughters, Ashlynn Johnson, participate in the Junior Division at the national contest this year.
Elizabeth Downare, Roxana’s daughter, also attended the national convention and presented a special “Roxana Johnson Creativity Award” to Abigail Rasys of Brimfield, Mass.
Pendleton Woolen Mills sponsored the creativity award.