Since they were brought over during the earliest explorations of North America, the sheep industry has played a vital role in the agricultural history of our nation. In the 1940s, there were over 55 million sheep in the U.S., but today those numbers hover around one-tenth of that total. There are about 80,000 sheep ranchers across the U.S., and, with support from the 2014 Farm Bill, they will have additional resources to help develop innovative approaches to address their long-term needs.
Consolidation of the U.S. sheep packing industry, higher feed and energy costs, loss of animals to predators and lower lamb consumption, along with competition from imported of lamb cuts, have taken their toll on U.S. sheep producers. In response to industry needs, USDA is committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of the sheep industry.