Advocating for the Industry in Washington, D.C.
By Susan Shultz
One of the more important strengths of the American Sheep Industry (ASI) is the association’s ongoing work in advocating for issues important to our American sheep industry. To this end, dedicated producer/leaders join together on a yearly basis to travel to Washington, D.C. to visit with their Congressional delegations and government agencies to share our industry’s concerns.
In March 2020, the ASI delegation was one of the last commodity groups to visit those offices due to the pandemic and, in March 2022, we were one of the first groups to return. It was wonderful to be back in Washington, D.C. and re-connect with our representatives and senators and share our story. But this year, we were also able to say thank you.
For many years, the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho has struggled with inadequate funding. At one point the station was even on the government’s closure list, but ASI and its producer leaders continued to work to build relationships with supporters of agriculture research. We have advocated for the importance of modernizing the unique century old sheep station and to adequately fund its important research.
We were so pleased with the recently passed bipartisan compromise appropriations bill which contains $4.2 million for improvements to the building and facilities at the station, as well as an additional $500,000 in new rangeland research funding. This would not have happened without years of advocating from ASI and its producer leaders. We are especially appreciative of Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) who pushed this issue forward.
Building relationships with our government agencies also helped with another positive win recently for our industry. ASI heard from producers who were very appreciative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) providing emergency relief payments for forage losses due to the severe ongoing drought.
The assistance was designed to help producers with the additional expenses of hauling feed to livestock. In the case of our sheep industry, many producers were forced instead to transport their flocks to new feed sources.
ASI asked for this added flexibility for livestock hauling to be considered for relief payments. Association leaders had numerous conversations with Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux and others. The request was sensible, and due to our positive relationships, USDA listened. This positive action might help numerous producers survive this persistent drought.
Building relationships across the aisle in Washington, D.C. does make a difference. ASI has a respected reputation on Capitol Hill due to its dedicated producer leaders and ASI staff. ASI will continue to build relationships and advocate for our industry.
Susan Shultz is the president of ASI. This column was featured in the May issue of the Sheep Industry News.