Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON--The American Textile Manufacturers Institute is going on the offensive against a proposal advanced by the American Sheep Industry and the American Wool Council to impose a levy on wool fiber imports to fund a wool promotion program.
ATMI's board of directors adopted a resolution last week to oppose the plan on the grounds it would force U.S. textile manufacturers to pay up to $7.5 million yearly for its wool imports. The domestic industry buys virtually all of the wool produced in the U.S., but because U.S. wool growers produce only a quarter of the wool manufacturers need, the industry imports most of the wool it uses, according to the ATMI.
ATMI prefers a program that would be funded only by domestic wool growers. Under the ATMI proposal, textile mills would act as collection agents for the fees domestic wool growers would pay, with no reimbursements to the mills for expenses.
A government-funded national promotion program for wool and lamb products expires at the end of September. It is part of the wool and mohair subsidy program, which was terminated by Congress last year as part of a budget-cutting effort. The flap over fees on imported wool erupted earlier this summer when the domestic wool industry offered a proposal to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to create this type of check-off program on both domestic and imported wool. The Senate committee is working on a proposal that would charge a one-cent-per-pound fee on imported and domestic wool sold, a Senate aide said.
House Agriculture Committee chairman Rep. Kika de la Garza (D., Tex.), however, told the wool growers they should seek agreement with the domestic textile industry before attempting to gain Congressional approval, a Washington source said.
If a deal could be struck between the two industries, de la Garza promised that his committee would advance the check-off legislation through Congress this year, the source said.
Meanwhile, ATMI is continuing to negotiate with the wool growers and searching for a compromise, said Thomas Draper, vice president and general manager of the wool division at Wellman Inc. Draper is chairman of ATMI's wool committee.
When the check-off program was first discussed, Draper said, ATMI had been presentedwitha proposal from the growers that would have levied two cents per pound on wool imports. The estimate of $7.5 million additional in annual costs for wool fiber imports is based upon the 2-cents-per-pound figure.
--Fairchild News Service

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