USDA Programs to Benefit Sheep Operations of All Sizes
During his visit to the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) office July 28, Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Marketing and Regulatory Programs Ed Avalos announced the availability of two programs that will create new opportunities for growth and innovation within the sheep industry.
Avalos relayed that the application period for the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program is open through Aug. 27.
This $1.5 million in grant funds was secured by ASI in the Farm Bill approved last February. ASI had the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC) in mind when seeking congressional approval of the program and, in fact, the center has confirmed it will be applying for the funds on behalf of the sheep industry. The use of the dollars and the purpose of the center run parallel in the authorization to strengthen the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products in the United States. The focus of the grant will be on infrastructure, business and resource development and NSIIC has a proven delivery system for grant funds to the sheep industry making it a great fit.
"I want to emphasize that USDA is committed to working with the sheep industry, to support markets for high quality lamb and lamb products and for high quality sheep and sheep products," said Avalos. "And I'm not talking about just domestic markets, I'm talking also about international markets."
"The industry is very appreciative of USDA for its timely initiation of the grant funds," said Clint Krebs, president of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). "ASI anticipates that these funds will be secured by NSIIC for distribution to the industry as was the intent of the Farm Bill language. The program will have Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversight."
The second program unveiled by USDA is the Grass Fed Program for Small and Very Small Producers. It is designed as a verification tool for producers of 99 ewes or less to certify their animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard. Certified producers will receive certificates that allow them to market their sheep as USDA-certified grass fed, increasing their market value and creating new economic opportunities.
"Both of these programs are welcomed by sheep producers and will be valuable tools for the industry as a whole," said Krebs. "We appreciate AMS for all its work with the sheep industry and we are excited about being able to offer the grass-fed program to a large number of our producers.
"These programs are a win for the U.S. sheep industry but also for consumers and the economy. Studies have shown that for every 1,000 ewes being cared for on ranches and farms in the United States, 18 jobs are associated with them."
"We want to work with sheep producers as they continue to provide quality products and increase their returns here at home," said Avalos. "It's very important to support producers of all sizes. Both of these programs will touch producers big and small."