State Budget Funds Sheep Producer Initiatives

Part of effort to promote New York’s Fiber Industry 

GREENWICH, NY – The Empire Sheep Producers Association applauds the inclusion of $50,000 in the 2021 New York State budget to support sheep and wool-related research, market development, public education and new farmer support programs. 

Keith Stumbo, Empire Sheep Association President said, “We are grateful for the advocacy of Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Senator Michelle Hinchey. These funds will not only be a big help in developing a better market for wool from New York State’s sheep farms, but they will also enable our organization to expand programs that encourage youth to learn about the industry and to get involved with sheep and wool.”

Senate Agriculture Chair Michelle Hinchey said, “From sheep’s wool to hemp fiber, we have an incredible opportunity here in New York to develop a strong farm-to-fabric supply chain that opens up new market opportunities for our farmers and textile producers. Our state budget is a perfect chance to enhance these connections, and I am thrilled that we were able to invest $50,000 this year to support the great work of the Empire Sheep Producers Association as they nurture the growth of our wool-based fiber market through critical research, marketing, and educational programming.”

“I’m happy we were able to provide funding for the Empire Sheep Producers Association – they represent an important part of the fiber market,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo., Chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. “This support is part of an overall plan to promote the state’s fiber industry through marketing and continuing development. We hope to see (A5380/S3396) signed into law this year, so that the fiber industry, including hemp fiber, will have the opportunity to participate in New York’s Grown and Certified Program.”

The number of sheep and sheep farmers in New York State is growing, with the number of sheep raised in New York increasing by 8.75% from 2019 to 2020. New York ranks 13th among states in the production of wool, meat and sheep dairy products, and is among only a handful of states in which sheep farming is growing. Wool is a climate-beneficial source of textiles, as sheep farming supports carbon sequestration through grasslands kept healthy and productive by managed grazing. Wool textiles are fully biodegradable at the end of their lifecycle. Sheep farming also supports other rural businesses, including hay production, farm implement sales, and other agribusinesses. Sheep and wool festivals draw tourists from around the globe. Local yarn shops, weaving studios, and yarn mills employ local residents. 

Initiatives supported by this funding will involve collaboration with Cornell University’s Sheep and Goat Program, the New York Grown and Certified program, the New York State Fair, and the annual New York State Sheep and Wool Festival at Rhinebeck. Projects will include partnering with the American Sheep Industry association to develop a certified wool classing program in New York which is expected to lead to production of high quality wool that will be an attractive choice for clothing manufacturers and fashion designers. The funds will also support youth sheep shows, educational programs for adults new to sheep farming, and a number of other activities. 

Gail Parrinello, president and co-founder of the non-profit Hudson Valley Textile Project, said, “I am delighted to learn of the inclusion of $50,000 in the NYS budget for the sheep producers association. This funding will do much to support this growing industry that is so important to the residents and ecology of the Hudson Valley and all of our state.”

Cecelia Tkaczk of Cece’s Wool, a sheep farm in Delanson NY that raises Jacob sheep.

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