Fight to Keep Sheep Station Open Continues
A committee that is trying to prevent the closure of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station has finalized a document that defends its continued existence. The document, which highlights some of the important research being done at the USSES was distributed to members of Congress, who were then asked to prevent its closure.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last year that the USSES, headquartered in Dubois, ID, would be closed Nov. 1, 2014 and staff and program funding reallocated to other Agricultural Research Services (ARS) locations. Implementation of the closure was postponed in the FY 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act. The Cromnibus spending package was agreed to by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2014.
When the FY 2016 Administration budget was published in February, the intent to close the USSES by October 1, 2015 was still included.
The station conducts research designed to improve the genetics, reproduction efficiency and nutrient use of domestically grazed sheep.
USDA has proposed closing it, citing factors such as litigation by environmental groups over grazing activities at the station, which covers about 48,000 acres in Idaho and Montana.
The committee attempting to keep the USSES open is made up of of industry, university and state and federal agency personnel. The group agreed on a final document Feb. 23.
"In fiscal year 2016 and beyond, Congress must reject the USDA closure request for (the station) to ensure that valuable livestock, rangeland and wildlife research efforts and an irreplaceable field laboratory are not lost forever," the document concludes.
It also lists the research done at the station, including the use of new genomics data to try to increase sheep production efficiency and tackle disease challenges.
"There's a lot of good data in there that describes what the station does," said Idaho Wool Growers Association Executive Director Stan Boyd. "This document will go to (Congress) and be used to show ARS the reasoning why the station should not be closed."
In a letter to Congress explaining why the station is slated for closure, Vilsack noted a lack of financial and human resources at the location and costs associated with animal feed, infrastructure and staff.
The committee's document addresses those issues.
During its annual spring legislative trip to Washington D.C. March 23-25, ASI and producers met with senators, congressmen, USDA officials and Forest Service officials to communicate the sheep industry’s desire to keep the USSES open.