A bipartisan group of 21 lawmakers are urging USDA to assist U.S. lamb and sheep producers following the closure of one of the nation's largest lamb processors. The Mountain States Rosen plant represents an estimated 20% of the nation’s processing capacity. A letter from the lawmakers pushes USDA to help lamb and sheep farmers and ranchers find alternate processing and marketing options immediately.
“This closure … comes at a time when the sheep industry was already forecast to lose more than $350 million due to COVID-19-related market declines, and feedlots are already at peak capacity in many places,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We must do everything we can to support the families, who make up the sheep industry in our states, as they whether these significant and pressing challenges.”
Mountain States Rosen filed for bankruptcy in June, according to the Greeley Tribune. The plant processed 350,000 head of lamb per year. JBS bought the building to expand its beef processing capacity.
“USDA has the ability to aid these producers in finding other options for marketing and processing in a way that keeps these products flowing through the supply chain, and helps farm families get through this rough patch," said Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa of California.
Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Ranking Member David Rouzer of North Carolina said, “As we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, decreases in processing capacity have greatly impacted the entire livestock industry, and this closure will be no different. The economic impacts that America’s sheep raisers will feel as a result are yet another struggle they will have to overcome during an already trying time. It is imperative that we continue to explore all options to preserve and expand processing capacity for the lamb and sheep sector."
“The loss of processing capacity has only magnified the struggles and challenges facing lamb and sheep producers across the U.S.,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota. “We hope that Secretary Perdue will move quickly to address this pressing need and aid these producers in identifying and establishing more alternative processing options for U.S. lamb producers in both the short and long terms.”
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway of Texas said, “The closure of the second largest lamb and sheep processing facility in the country will have a ripple effect felt throughout the entire market. As America’s farmers and ranchers continue to feel the strain caused by COVID-19, it’s critical that we provide support to help them through this difficult period."