DUBOIS, Idaho — Sheep industry leaders say a recent vote in the U.S. House subcommittee bodes well for their continued efforts to save the local U.S. Sheep Experimental Station from planned closure.
The facility, operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in partnership with University of Idaho, was on a list of agency facilities targeted for closure in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget in February. The closure would take effect on Oct. 1.
However, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee retained language pertaining to the closures, added by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, when it approved the FY16 Agricultural Appropriations bill on July 9.
Simpson’s rider would prohibit USDA from shuttering any of the ARS facilities on the closure list.
Simpson also blocked a USDA attempt to close the sheep station in July 2014 with language added to the agricultural appropriations bill.
“I was disappointed when USDA attempted to close (the U.S. Sheep Experimental Station) last year and failed to provide prior notice to Congress and the sheep industry,” Simpson said in a press release. “Because of its location and expertise, staff at the Dubois station are working on unique issues, including research on the domestic-wildlife interface, that is vital to the sheep industry’s future.”
The station has 16 employees and operates on a nearly $2 million budget. Bret Taylor, research leader at the facility, declined to comment.
Simpson’s spokeswoman, Nikki Wallace, is optimistic his efforts to retain the facility will succeed once more. She said House members have until Sept. 31 to pass appropriations bills and are working diligently to move them through the process in time for the Senate to act. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has sponsored companion legislation.
American Sheep Industry Association Executive Director Peter Orwick said he is “absolutely optimistic” that the provision will pass. Even if appropriations bills are lumped into a single omnibus bill to continue funding, Orwick said it’s unlikely that riders within the bills would be removed.
“It’s the only ARS research facility dedicated to the sheep industry,” Orwick said. “Certainly, there’s room in that budget for one facility dedicated to furthering the sheep industry in this country.”