Wool producers get help from USDA


SALEM, Ohio – Rick Moore, a sheep producer from Cadiz, Ohio, says the support he received this fall from the government is helping him survive.

U.S. wool producers have seen possibly the lowest prices since 1971, at 34 to 38 cents a pound on a grease basis.

Through the USDA’s new Wool and Mohair Market Loss Assistance Program, producers will be paid 20 cents a pound for wool and 40 cents a pound for mohair for the 1999 clip.

Payments for the 1999 wool and mohair clip are expected to total about $11 million nationally.

Any production from Jan. 1, 1999, to Dec. 30, 1999, that has been sold, stored or disposed of is eligible for payment. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 29.

Sale and storage receipts are useful for signing up for payments, but may not be necessary.

“Most county FSAs know their producers. It would be hard for them to pull the wool over our eyes,” said Rob Whinnery, executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Harrison/Jefferson counties.

“They self-certify the amount of poundage shorn on the application, and they know they are subject to spot checks. If a county committee feels the application is reasonable, they will be accepted.”

Producers must own the sheep for 30 days prior to shearing and actually own the animal when it was sheared.

To date, the Harrison/Jefferson FSA office has had 15 producers apply, and has paid $3,152 for wool and $791 for mohair.

“We need to make producers aware of the program. We should have at least about 40 to 50 applications from the two counties by Dec. 29,” said Whinnery.

Sheep producers Stanley and Rick Moore of Cadiz say the program was needed and has proved beneficial to their 1,100-head ewe operation.

Rick Moore said they were paid for a little over 12,000 pounds of wool, which allowed them to make a small profit. The Moores do most of their own shearing.

“The prices for wool have been depressing for the past two or three years,” said Moore. “This isn’t just a hobby. We are full-time sheep farmers. We have to make money.”

Moore says limiting wool imports and perhaps keeping packing plants open year-round could help them increase their income.

“To ban imports would be impossible. We, as a nation, do not produce enough wool, but limiting the number of imports would mean a great deal to U.S. producers,” said Moore. “The lamb business is still pretty much a seasonal business, but if packers were open year-round we could make a better profit.”

Although no payments have been made as of yet in Butler County, Pa., producers are looking forward to receiving their money.

Luke Fritz of the Butler County FSA says only about nine people have applied for the program in the county. Those applications were approved Nov. 9 by the county committee and producers should see their checks within the next couple of weeks.

Robert and Sally McCrumb of Valencia, Pa., say every little bit will help their 200-head operation.

“We paid more to have a shearer come here and for the wool pool to handle our wool than what we got out of the wool,” said Robert McCrumb.

The McCrumbs paid $421 to a shearer and $93.60 to the wool pool. They received $219.16 for their wool. They listed 1,167 pounds of wool on their application and, at 20 cents a pound, they should receive about $233.40 from the wool payments. After all the adding and subtracting is completed, the McCrumbs will still be about $62 in the hole.

“This will level the playing field a little,” said McCrumb. “We just can’t compete with all that is shipped in. And it’s not raw wool that is shipped in. Foreign countries are producing finished products. The U.S. textile industry is on its knees.”

Better prices ahead. But will emergency payments be needed for future clips? Perhaps not. Steve Meyer, consultant with the American Sheep Industry Association, believes better prices are ahead because of the recovering Asian economy, lower worldwide wool availability and low wool prices will lead to better prices.

McCrumb feels the rallying Asian economy is good news for local producers.

“The Asian market was in the tank, but it’s slowly coming back. This will help us find more places for our wool,” said McCrumb.

More importantly, Meyer says mills should be able to secure credit to increase their output.

Meyer also says wool production is expected to drop another 1 to 2 percent during the 2000-01 international wool marketing season.The 2001 Agricultural Appropriations bill includes emergency market loss payments for the 2000 wool clip. Sign up for the 2000 payments will be separate from the 1999 payments. Additional information on the 2000 payments is expected early next year.

Fritz says the application is easy to complete with only about six questions to answer. He hopes more producers take advantage of this program.

“We will do whatever we can to help producers complete the application,” said Fritz. “If producers call, we’ll be more than happy to send the application to them in the mail.

For more information about wool and mohair payments, contact your local FSA office.


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