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Montana Ag Network: American wool in high demand

Posted at 10:29 AM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-28 12:29:58-05

NEW ORLEANS – There was a lot of excitement about American wool during this year’s American Sheep Industry Association’s annual convention in New Orleans.

It’s an exciting time for U.S. woolgrowers as American wool is in high demand both at home and around the world.

The American Sheep Industry Association’s Rita Kourlis-Samuelson explained some of the efforts the group is doing to build demand for high-quality U.S. wool clip.

“We do export quite a bit, so ASI works with the Foreign Ag Development Service, with the USDA, in developing those markets,” Samuelson said. “And we’ve developed markets all over the world. We do export a lot. But here in the United States, we’re also developing our brand. We have the American wool brand to bring it into the current age and modernize it and let young people and millennials know about wool and its capabilities.”

Samuelson added they have the American wool brand to bring into the current age for modernization.

“And because our breeders are breeding for finer wool, they’re making finer yarns and lightweight fabrics, it can be worn year-round. Wool is very versatile and that’s an important message we would like to share with consumers,” Samuelson said.

David Fischer, a member of the ASI’s Wool Council from Sonora, Texas, said keeping the U.S. textile industry alive is a big priority to help ensure demand for American wool continues.

“Some of the talk that went on was really looking at how we can help infrastructure. What can we do to help with wool testing?” Fisher said. “A conversation came up regarding helping the scouring facilities to modernize to the twenty-first century like they need to be. Without that, we can’t continue to move forward and have the growth and productive industry we want.”

Textile companies also see opportunities as demand continues to grow for American wool — including Jacob Long who leads American Woolen Company based in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

“Obviously, as one of the last remaining weavers in America, the big thing for us is to try to take wool fabric and go across other consumer segments,” Long explained.

Long said most people think of wool as only for the apparel industry, but there’s a huge opportunity for interiors as well as for accessories.

“So, for us, I think it’s just looking at which consumer markets are growing and taking our wool fabric and trying to attack those markets,” Long concluded.

Woolgrowers like ASI Wool Council member Randy Tunby from Baker, Montana said the growing demand for American wool also helps their bottom line back at the ranch.

“We did have record prices this past year and wool is on a pretty strong market trend this year. Maybe not quite as much as it was last year but it helped fill the gap for people,” Tunby said. “It also made some people realize that boy we should pay attention to maybe the wool side of things a little bit more and when you can get those dollars back in your pocket from the wool that you that you were able to get this year, it makes a large difference.”

There’s good reason why there’s so much excitement in the U.S. wool industry because after all, American wool is the original performance fiber.

Click here to learn more about American wool and the ASI’s efforts to grow demand here in the United States and around the world.

-Reported by Russell Nemetz/MTN News