It Was a Good Event
During the weekend of Nov. 9-11, I attended the Tri-State Wool Growers Joint Convention held in Jackson, with sheep producers attending from Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, along with other regional states. For those attending, it was one of those moments in life where one would say, “This event can only grow and get bigger and better.”
For the past couple of years the Wyoming Wool Growers have been holding their annual convention with the Idaho Wool Growers in Sun Valley, Idaho. It has worked well, but was some distance to drive for those from Wyoming. Before that, the Wyoming Wool Growers held their own convention in state, joining up with the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and Wyoming Stock Growers in early December in Casper for a joint convention every few years.
It was a convention a number of us really liked for numerous reasons. First, it was convenient, and we were able to visit with a lot of old friends. But the main reason I always liked it was that it provided a solid agriculture front to the state and had a great trade show. Politicians and others doing business knew that it was the convention to be at. Also, most sheep producers are cattle producers, too. For a number of reasons Wyoming Wool Growers decided to meet with Idaho, and we understand.
Sheep producers in the Mountain States have had swings in prices for lamb, old ewes and wool the last couple of years that have been as extreme as precipitation has been over the same time period. As was stated at the convention, demand for lamb outpaced supply, and consequently the price soared. Ultimately lamb got higher than the consumer was willing to pay, so demand tanked, the freezers got full, and packers stopped buying. The result was a backlog at the feeders, which caused lambs to get so heavy. The chain reaction was not good for the industry.
Everyone lost, but according to some, they think that there may be some small indicators that demand may be coming back. We certainly hope so. These extreme swings in prices really hurt everybody. Lamb and wool are commodities, just like coffee and orange juice, and they live by the same rules – supply and demand.
There were over 330 people registered at the convention from the three states along with many great panels of speakers, including our Governor Matt Mead. Governor Mead was a hit with those from out of state, because they recognized he was a producer that has dealt with federal agencies, and he knew the issues.
When the panel of wool buyers got up to speak at the head table, producers were amazed that there were so many wool buyers in one place, and that there were so many wool buyers that still operated. Despite poor prices and large issues facing them, there was also a positive tone that times will improve. Issues dealing with labor, Bighorn sheep and others were discussed, but none that attendees and speakers believed were hopeless, but could be solved.
There were many positives that came as a result of the three states meeting together. The sheep industry deserves that and more to come.