On Saturday the American Sheep Industry Association concluded its 2022 National Convention in San Diego. I spoke with Chase Adams of the American Sheep Association about some of the highlights of this year’s convention.

So, I think folks are ready to get out there ready to meet again and discuss a lot of dynamic topics. We see the industry this year, research and genetics and education as well as a lot of policy topics. So it was a good year to finally get everybody back together in person again, and hash out some, you know, some industry priorities.

A big focus in the sheep industry is genetics.

 We have Sheep Genetics USA, which is looking to enhance genetic profile here in the sheep industry here in the US. We've lagged a little bit behind some of the other livestock industries, you know, the cattle industry and whatnot. Just kind of streamlining that and making sure our genetics are as strong as possible and we're providing a uniform product back to our members whether we're talking high quality US wool or high-quality US lamb.

Also on the priority list, says Adams, is the American Wool Assurance Program.

So, this is a certified wool program; it's a voluntary program, so producers can voluntarily enroll They meet the definitions they meet the criteria outlined for animal care and handling under the Sheep Quality Assurance Program. And we've seen some incentives being offered now for being American Wool Assurance or AWA certified so that's another brand new effort to the industry.

Producers are seeing additions to the program this year which include benefits from being certified, decreasing auditing costs with only a portion of members being audited every four years, and pooling wool to make larger lots of certified wool.

And just like all industries, the Sheep industry is battling challenges such as the supply chain and labor shortages.

 Rising cost of labor is a huge issue for this industry. We rely on H-2A guest workers primarily coming in from Peru and South America at this point. They care for about 1/3 of the ewes in the nation.

 

Primarily in the west, we've had a tough time getting these guest workers in, and then states like California and Colorado are looking to do their minimum wage increases. So we're already having a challenge meeting the minimum wage nationwide and some of these areas are remaining profitable.

 

But for California, and other states with a range of her wage that presents a tremendous challenge. Mercy producers know when you've got those herders out there on the range. They're out there with the sheep 24/7. They've got to wake up with them in the morning. Move on to the next pasture, move to the next grazing land. And kind of just repeat that cycle always on guard for predators and wolves and bears and mountain lions.

 So what else can sheep producers look forward to next?

The environmental aspects of environmental bona fide aid are certainly going to be a big topic of conversation, especially getting into a farm bill year. So, we expect Congress next year to be working on this Farm Bill. We're gonna be right there working with them

 

We're planning on bringing our folks out here to Washington, DC in March for our annual spring trip, which includes opportunities, agencies, and the members of Congress. So we are planning on plowing forward safely and concisely. So we're looking forward to that. And I just really anticipate getting strong markets right now. We want to spend a good year for sheep producers.

More information on programs with the American Sheep Industry Association can be found here.

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