2016 ASI spring legislative trip

It was mid- March, the buds were just starting out of the trees, and the ASI Spring Legislative Trip was being held to Washington D.C. In 2015, the time was moved from early May to mid-March by the American Sheep Industry (ASI) in hopes of being able to catch more legislators in their offices.

Ohio Sheep Improvement Association (OSIA) was able to take two young progressive sheep industry leaders on this lobbying trip to show our legislators that there is a bright future to the sheep industry, and that they want to be involved.

OSIA members Katherine Wenner (Delaware County), Brady Campbell (Washington County) and ASI Region 3 Director Susan Shultz (Logan County) joined OSIA Executive Director Roger High for another enlightening lobbying trip. Along with representatives from many other states, the Ohio delegation worked to promote the interests of the sheep industry through educating our government leaders about its industry issues.

The ASI trip officially kicked off with a briefing meeting at hotel headquarters, followed the next day by a trip to the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters. Several USDA agencies — including Farm Service Agency, APHIS — Veterinary Services, Wildlife Services, Agricultural Marketing Service, Foreign Ag Service, and the National Forest Services. Each department within USDA sent representatives to brief the sheep industry on major issues, which are impacting their department. Hearing the concerns of shepherds from other states provided Wenner, Campbell, and Shultz with more knowledge of the impact of federal policies on the sheep industry.

Meetings were held with Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Rob Portman’s offices. Meetings were also held with representatives from the following congressional offices: Gibbs, Johnson, Wenstrup, Renacci, Tiberi, Stivers and Latta. Wenner, Campbell and Shultz tailored their message to show each member of Congress the sheep industry impact on their district — whether rural or urban. They spoke about the importance of support for services provided by USDA and the importance of OSU Extension and OARDC programs within the state. The Ohio delegation also thanked each of the congressional offices for any work they may have done to put together an acceptable farm bill beneficial to agriculture and the sheep industry.

The three Ohio sheep producers stressed during the legislative meetings that now is a great time to be in the sheep industry due to the growing demand for lamb and goat meat from ethnic populations in the United States.

There is a real opportunity for job creation as many Ohioans want to become involved in sheep or goat production. In order to recruit more people into small ruminant production to meet the growing demand, several key items are needed.

Shepherds must be allowed to use available — and approved — means for predator control so lamb crops are not decimated by coyotes and black vultures. Federal regulations must be addressed to find a method of controlling the black vulture, which is protected under the 1918 Migratory Bird Act but no longer migrates away from the livestock-rich southern portions of Ohio.

Finally, it is vital all shepherds work to ensure sheep production in the western United States is allowed to continue on federal lands, as the use of these western lands impacts the entire country. The sheep industry is such that if production diminishes there, the infrastructure for the entire industry will be affected.

On Wednesday evening, ASI celebrated a successful lobbying trip with a lamb barbeque at the lobbying firm of Cornerstone Group Associates.

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