American Sheep Industry Well Represented at IWTO

Representatives of the American Sheep Industry Association were on hand in early May to tout the benefits of American wool and help guide international discussions on wool during the annual meeting of the International Wool Trade Organization, May 14-16, in Hong Kong.

ASI President and New Mexico sheep producer Mike Corn lead this year's delegation of staff from the association and representatives from Anodyne, Burlington Industries/ITG, Chargeurs Wool USA, Keese International and Lempriere. The delegation was also joined by Annie Lai, agricultural marketing specialist for the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office in Hong Kong.

Corn said this meeting provides one of the most important forums to tout the benefits of American wool and work collaboratively with wool producer nations across the world to demonstrate this performance fiber's outstanding record for sustainability and animal welfare.

"The United States produces some of the best wool in the world, both fine and course wools," said Corn. "The IWTO Congress provides us an opportunity to showcase the unique characteristics of American wool to buyers from every wool manufacturing country. While we're proud to have a robust domestic market, increasing exports and finding new markets for our wools supports prices and builds demand for our producers back home."

IWTO's sustainable practices working group focused on continuing to review the life cycle analysis for wool production from the farm to the final garment. Wool has a great story to tell on sustainability, providing a natural, renewable and recyclable fiber that wears longer and requires less washing and maintenance than synthetic competitors.

The international wool biosecurity working group focused on country-by-country plans to respond to a potential outbreak of foreign animal disease, specifically Foot and Mouth Disease. The United States delegation shared plans for the Secure Sheep and Wool Program and discussed briefly the FMD vaccine bank authorized by the House Agriculture Committee's Farm Bill. Some of the key insights from the meeting detailed expansion efforts from China and Asia into Africa, including the development of sheep flocks into independent African nations and the expansion of trade routes by land and sea.

"Involvement through IWTO holds tremendous value for the American Sheep Industry Association and is made possible through USDA Foreign Agricultural Services programs," said Corn. "The IWTO Congress provides an opportunity to be a part of the discussions on key wool issues, stay current on standards in raw wool testing, review updates on trends, visit with all segments of the global wool industry in one place, and discuss the benefits of American wool. These efforts have proven a valuable tool in increasing the awareness of American wool in manufacturing countries and participating in the international wool marketplace."

ASI remains committed to working to promote the American wool clip and ensure that global trade and promotion efforts work for United States sheep and wool producers. Increased market development for raw wool and the promotion of consumer textiles, interiors and other uses hold tremendous potential for the industry.