The American Sheep Industry Association sent a letter last week to U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach requesting the return of free, plastic scrapie tags for American producers.
“I wanted to draw your attention to the Small Ruminate line item within the APHIS budget,” wrote ASI President Mike Corn of New Mexico. “That line item is the sole source of funding for the National Scrapie Eradication Program, a top priority for the domestic sheep industry. Scrapie has continued to cost our industry more than $20 million per year, and while we are close to our goal of being scrapie free, we must remain diligent in our commitment to the program. A critical component of that program is identifying and ear tagging sheep and goats. Citing funding issues, APHIS decided in the last year to halt provision of plastic tags to producers at no charge.
“For the sheep and goat industries, plastic tags are much preferred, which results in greater overall compliance,” Corn continued. “Metal ear tags if caught in comb and cutter of a shearing clipper, pose a tremendous danger to both the shearer and the sheep. The industry has continued to disseminate educational materials to sheep producers nationwide on these dangers and best practices through the nationally recognized Sheep Care Guide, but the solution is to offer the tags in both a metal and plastic option, or solely plastic.”
Congress appropriated an additional $500,000 for the small ruminant line item in Fiscal Year 2019, and ASI is requesting those funds be used to once again make plastic tags available to producers.