The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is taking steps to improve the U.S. wool industry with two new programs introduced under the Agriculture Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, designed to aid the production and marketing of wool products.
President Obama signed the Farm Bill into law in February 2014 to reform nutrition and agriculture policies in the U.S. from 2014-2018.
In the bill’s six-month progress report, it was revealed that the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program has made roughly $1.5 million in grant funding available to designated organizations to support the U.S. sheep industry. The program funds projects aimed at strengthening infrastructure, increasing resource development and fostering innovative approaches to solve long-term needs to benefit the wool industry as a whole.
AMS has also reformed its current verification program. The program was originally formed for small-scale livestock producers; however, it will now include assistance for the grass-fed sheep industry to help ensure that animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard.
According to the USDA, the Grass Fed Program for “small” and “very small” producers targets producers that market lambs produced from 99 head of ewes or less per year. Producers who are certified under the new program will receive certificates that allow them to market their sheep as USDA-certified grass fed, increasing their market value and creating new economic opportunities for producers.
Since its enactment six months ago, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said the Farm Bill has made “tremendous” progress on all 12 titles of the bill. Last week Vislack told reporters, “Thousands of farmers and ranchers have received critical disaster assistance, innovative new conservation programs are up and running, new risk management programs for producers are available with more tools to come, the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has been incorporated, and much more.” He added, “Thanks to the hard work of thousands of USDA employees across the country, we are continuing to get new initiatives off the ground and make important reforms to existing programs that are helping to boost the country’s economy.”