The American Sheep Industry Association, its state affiliates, the National Lamb Feeders Association and the Public Lands Council sent a letter to congressional leaders this week calling for additional support of the sheep industry in light of disruptions in the lamb and wool marketplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Specifically, we are asking that Congress raise the Commodity Credit Corporation’s borrowing authority from the current $30 billion and make funds available immediately to ensure USDA has, with the oversight of Congress, the ability to respond to the needs of our domestic food and fiber producers,” read the letter to the Senate and House majority and minority leaders. “As you are aware, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program developed and administered by the USDA has helped bridge the initial gap caused by the loss of consumer demand and uncertainty in the livestock markets.
“However, the relief USDA has been able to provide was limited due to funding restrictions and therefore only covered producer losses through mid-April with funding provided by the CARES Act. Additionally, CCC funds intended to compensate for on-going market disruptions have proven insufficient. Our industry continues to suffer greatly and USDA’s ability to respond to current and future losses as needed is critical to our producers’ ability to continue to operate through what are easily proving to be the most difficult economic times anyone alive has ever faced.
“Our initial estimated economic impact to the American sheep industry forecasts a loss of at least $353 million in 2020, and it is clear now that we will eclipse that number. We were pleased that lambs and yearlings (less than 2 years of age) and wool were included as eligible commodities under CFAP. Since the release of the program details, we have submitted additional data through the USDA’s Notice of Funds Availability filing in the Federal Register showing that replacement and cull ewes also exceeded the Department’s 5 percent loss threshold for eligibility under CFAP.
“The inclusion of replacement and cull ewes, even under the existing coverage dates, would significantly help our industry move toward recovery. This inventory class makes up nearly two-thirds of our sheep flock. That said, it is clear that to provide coverage to all segments and all regions of a widely diverse agricultural industry, a second (and possibly even subsequent) round of temporary assistance is necessary. Many producers in our industry are only now feeling the full effects of the pandemic’s impact; and as was the case for replacement and cull ewes, we are only now able to quantify those losses with sufficient economic data to meet the USDA’s threshold under CFAP.
“Therefore, we request that additional borrowing authority be made available through the CCC to allow the USDA to extend the CFAP, or similar temporary assistance, as well as any additional funding required to cover losses suffered by American agriculture post the current coverage eligibility; including the 2020 lamb, ewe and wool crops.”