Despite all this activity, I managed to sneak away for a few days to Washington. The American Sheep Industry holds its annual lobbying trip the first week of May. This year, I joined them to represent the American Goat Federation. It was a fantastic experience! I travelled with Roger High (Executive Director of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association) and Leslie (a shepherd & fellow AgriPower graduate). On our first day, we had a briefing on federal issues that impact the sheep industry and then we headed to a wonderful dinner at the New Zealand Embassy.
We were absolutely charmed by the Kiwis! They were wonderful hosts! We enjoyed delicious wines from New Zealand, along with an amazing meal of lamb chops & beef roast. At dinner, our Ohio delegation sat with the Ambassador's Chief of Staff, who was most charming. We enjoyed learning more about the country of New Zealand. The Ambassador himself gave a wonderful presentation to us, and was very hospitable. It definitely made us want to travel to see New Zealand!
I absolutely agreed with the Ambassador's statement that we gain a lot if our countries work together. For so long, American shepherds tried to position their product as being better than imported lamb. While I personally prefer American lamb, it makes more sense if we work with the Kiwis & the Australians. Demand for lamb & goat is VERY high, while supply is low. If we have a proactive attitude, we can capitalize on this opportunity. To do so, we need to recognize that Americans cannot produce enough currently to meet even our country's demand. Thus, we need imports to help meet the existing demand for our products.
Farmers are all connected. I need the Australian lamb producers and New Zealand goat farmers to succeed, so that consumers world-wide continue to have lamb & goat available. I need large ranches out West to continue to raise thousands of animals, so that the supporting businesses (slaughterhouses, woolen mills, feed stores) are there to help my little farm. I need grain farmers to flourish, so I can find quality feeds for my animals. Agriculture is very diverse, but quite connected. This is a challenge, but also a blessing!
Photo Caption: Katherine, Roger, and Leslie with the Ambassador and his Chief of Staff.