ASI Annual Convention wraps up in New Orleans

The American Sheep Industry Association’s 2019 Annual Convention marched into New Orleans Jan. 23-26 and marched out with new officers and a revamped executive board to lead the industry through the challenges of the new year.

Benny Cox of San Angelo, Texas, was elected president to succeed Mike Corn of New Mexico. His personal involvement in sheep – whether it be in production, feeding or trading – has lasted more than 50 years. Cox is a past president of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers’ Association and has been a member of ASI’s Lamb Council. He is joined on the officer team by vice president Susan Shultz of DeGraff, Ohio, and secretary/treasurer Brad Boner of Glenrock, Wyo.

There were four changes to the ASI Executive Board. Steve Clements of South Dakota was elected to represent region four. Randy Tunby of Montana was elected in region seven, and region eight elected Sarah Smith of Washington. Finally, Bob Harlan of Wyoming stepped into the National Lamb Feeders Association position on the board.

The ASI Lamb Council crafted grassroots policy on the industry’s response to current and emerging alternative sources of protein, including laboratory-cultured proteins. Having closely monitored the development of these products and the evolving regulatory framework, members of ASI weighed in supporting the administration’s approach of joint oversight between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration.

The policy clearly states that the association opposes any efforts to mislead consumers or disparage traditionally produced natural lamb in product promotion, advertising or labeling. ASI will remain at the forefront of this conversation as the development, regulation and marketing of these products moves forward. America’s sheep producers are proud of the healthy lamb they raise and only aim for a level playing field to ensure consumers have the information needed to make decisions that are in their family’s best interest.

ASI was pleased to present former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (Texas) with the industry’s highest honor – the Joe Skeen Award. In his tenure as chairman, Conaway drafted the most favorable House version of the Farm Bill for the sheep industry in more than three decades. Conaway fought hard for inclusion of the industry’s priorities, not just in the House bill, but all the way through the conference with the Senate to the bill signed by the president.

But Conaway wasn’t the only award winner at the 2019 ASI Annual Convention. North Dakota’s Burdell Johnson earned the McClure Silver Ram Award for a lifetime of service to the sheep industry. He has been a regular attendee at the convention for the past two decades and volunteers his time to serve as auctioneer for both the Rams PAC and the ASI Women’s auctions. He was also instrumental in creating the Young Entrepreneur group that included more than 70 attendees at this year’s annual convention. He continues to mentor the group to this day.

Montana dominated the Friday awards luncheon, picking up honors in three of the five categories awarded by ASI. Producer John Helle became just the second winner of the Industry Innovation Award for his efforts in leading the family operation to begin manufacturing its own wool clothing line: Duckworth.

He was joined onstage by John and Nina Baucus, who were selected for the Distinguished Producer Award. The husband and wife team have both held leadership positions at the state and national levels through the years while continuing to work on their historic ranch near Helena, Mont. Ag broadcaster Russell Nemetz, also of Montana, was named the Shepherd’s Voice Award winner for his efforts to promote the sheep industry through the media.

While he wasn’t on hand for the convention, former ASI staffer Paul Rodgers of West Virginia joined the full board of directors meeting via Skype. In addition to recognizing Rodger’s 2018 retirement, ASI officers honored him with the association’s Camptender Award for his efforts on everything from animal health to LRP-Lamb insurance to mandatory price reporting in three-plus decades of service with the association.

Look for extensive coverage of the ASI Annual Convention in the March issue of the Sheep Industry News.

–American Sheep Industry