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Montana Ag Network: The original performance fiber

Posted at 7:36 AM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-28 09:37:39-05

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 here at home and around the world.

The American Sheep Industry Association’s Rita Kourlis-Samualson explained some of the efforts that the group is doing to build demand for that 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,” Samualson 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,” she added.

“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,” Samualson told MTN News.

David Fischer, a member of the ASI’s Wool Council from Sonora, Texas, says 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 21st Century like they need to be. Without that, we can’t continue to move forward and have the growth and productive industry we want,” he continued.

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.

“Most people think of wool for only the apparel industry for outerwear, and for us, 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 say the growing demand for American wool is also helping 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.

-Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News