Guard Dog Program protects the sheep industry with producer contributions
The American Sheep Industry’s (ASI) Guard Dog Program is designed to provide funding for efforts on behalf of the sheep industry outside of lobbying.
“The idea was that our association and our industry needed some producers to step up and make contributions to help us address issues as they arise. Each year there are issues on a national and regional level that ASI can get involved in to help the industry. We needed a source of unrestricted funds to be able to support those efforts,” explains northern Converse country sheep producer and past ASI President Frank Moore of why the Guard Dog Program was initiated.
The idea behind the name was that just as guard dogs protect their flock, the Guard Dog Program will care for and protect the producers, explains ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick.
“We had one or two dozen requests for actual guard dogs from people who thought we were selling dogs when it first started,” comments Orwick with a laugh.
The program has operated for eight years and approximately 100 more contributors are added each year.
“We generally received between $60,000 and $70,000 in contributions annually,” explains Orwick.
Moore lists getting involved in the reworking of the H2A program, predator control and more specifically the wolf issue in and around Wyoming as examples of efforts funds are being used for.
“This year we provided $10,000 in financial support to Wyoming for use on wolf management lawsuits,” adds Orwick.
Funding also supported a sheep station in Idaho recently when a Western Watershed project went after the station and attacked the existence of sheep and federal grazing on the land. Orwick explains that Guard Dog dollars aided in the defense of the station during the lawsuit that was filed.
Idaho Wool Growers also received Guard Dog funds to aid with their legal efforts in the 2008 Big Horn Sheep controversy
“There is a lot of heavy legal defense of the industry. We utilize an executive board with 12 voting members to review requests for Guard Dog funds, which are typically sent in by state associations,” explains Orwick.
There are several years when all funds aren’t expended, but the last couple of year’s all contributions have been used in annual efforts. Orwick says that is part of the design of the program and allows the necessary flexibility to help on issues as they arise and to an extent that wouldn’t be possible without the program.
“Full, annual membership is at about 750 members and 85 percent of those are individual sheep ranchers. In our minds they are all making very significant contributions and stepping up a level in order to help take care of industry business,” notes Orwick.
Contributors fill out a priority sheet with their contribution each year to determine top funding priorities. A contributor profile is also included in the ASI’s publication six times per year as a means of highlighting individuals who go a step beyond says Orwick.
“It’s been a very good program and has been well supported and very beneficial to the industry,” adds Moore.
For more information on the Guard Dog Program go to sheepusa.org and request a packet. Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org