Sheep photo

The Idaho Wool Growers Association estimate the state stands to lose more than $42 million in sales this year.

Idaho Wool Growers Association (IWGA) announces the Idaho sheep industry is in dire straits due to the pandemic and needs help.

IWGA President John Noh states, "Over the past two weeks our industry has taken a huge hit and we are suffering." Current export markets report zero bids on wool commodities, zero bids on lamb, and just two days ago, the USDA National Wool Review announced zero price reports for any class of wool sold in the entire United States.

Noh adds, "We have been sounding the alarm for over a year that we lost 89 percent of our wool export market over the ongoing China tariff/trade wars. We were barely hanging on; holding onto some hope that new tariffs laws would end our troubles. But the little we had left was taken when Coronavirus took over." Noh continued by pointing out that it is not just the wool market effected, but, "every sector of our industry, from lamb feeders to sheep producers to wool markets have been, and are currently being, decimated. The hundreds of family-owned operators in Idaho are in great peril from the economic disaster this has caused."

"In 2016, a sheep pelt would profit a producer $16. Today it costs our producers $2 to have one rendered. This is not right," added Noh. "We still have last year's wool clip and part of 2018's clip waiting in storage to be exported while our sheep continue to grow it. There is simply no avenue to sell this wool and with restaurants hurting, our lamb is not selling either."

Three weeks ago, Eater.com reported the restaurant industry has declined over 60 percent. Solid official numbers currently are not available for the past two weeks; however, some are estimating it is actually upwards of an 85 percent decrease. The collapse in those markets effect all segments of agriculture, but especially the sheep industry, resulting in America's second largest lamb processing plant to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The few auction barns that are still operating have seen a 55 percent decline in live lamb prices resulting in a severe bottleneck of live animals in the supply chain. Since over 50 percent of the domestic lamb is purchased by food service, many lambs that were ready and scheduled for harvest are just aging in the feedlots. This will continue, and just worsen, in the foreseeable future. The American Sheep Industry (ASI) has calculated a negative economic impact in excess of $350 million. The Idaho Wool Growers Association strongly believes this to be an ultra-conservative estimate as Idaho alone stands to lose over $42,000,000 in sales this year (according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.)

"It was not many years ago that the sheep industry was deemed of great importance to our national security," adds Noh. "Today, while our industry is smaller, it is still of extreme relevance to our great nation. Wool is the only natural fiber that can keep you warm and dry in the winter and cool in the summer and is naturally fire resistant. It is essential for our nation's military and emergency responders. Additionally, lamb produced on the open ranges of the Western U.S. are raised on completely renewable natural resources. Those natural resources help produce a profoundly delicious protein, rich in vitamins and minerals. Yet we are now strangled to get anything to market," said Noh.

"We desperately need help for our industry right now." Noh continued to plead, "Please contact our legislators and tell them you are concerned and we need help."

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