Undersecretary Visits ASI Office to Announce Programs That Will Benefit Sheep Producers
Edward Avalos made a stop at ASI’s Denver office to meet with staff and announce two new programs that are expected to benefit sheep producers and the sheep industry.
Avalos, the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA, held a press conference to introduce the programs and answered a number of questions from ASI President Clint Krebs, who also was in Denver to meet with staff.
According to Avalos, the new Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program – a program that is part of the 2014 Farm Bill – will provide $1.5 million in grant funds that can be used by sheep organization to assist producers by strengthening 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.
“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.”
Krebs said the sheep industry is very appreciative of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) for its initiation of the grant funds.
“ASI anticipates that these funds will be secured by the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center for distribution to the industry as was the intent of the Farm Bill language,” said Krebs. “The program will have 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.
“These programs are a win for the U.S. sheep industry but also for consumers and the economy,” said Krebs. “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.”
Both programs would be welcomed by sheep producers and will be valuable tools for the industry as a whole, noted Krebs.
Avalos, who grew up on a family farm in the Mesilla Valley of Southern New Mexico, has wide-ranging responsibilities as Under Secretary. Along with leading AMS, which provides standardization testing and marketing of commodities and specialty crops, he provides oversight for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which addresses animal and plant pests and diseases. Avalos also oversees the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which promotes marketing of livestock, cereals and meats, as well as fair trade practices.
As for the two new programs announced during his Denver stop, Avalos said he is confident they will create new opportunities for growth and innovation within the sheep industry.
“We want to work with sheep producers as they continue to provide quality products and increase their returns here at home,” he said. “It’s very important to support producers of all sizes. Both of these programs will touch producers big and small.”