The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the continuation of the Lamb Promotion, Research, and Information Order. Lamb producers, feeders, seedstock producers and first handlers of lamb and lamb products participating in a national referendum from Jan. 31 through Feb. 28 voted in favor of the order.

Of the 3,490 valid ballots cast, 2,807, or 80 percent, favored the program; while 683, or 20 percent opposed. Additionally, of those persons who cast valid ballots in the referendum, those who favored the continuing of the program accounted for 84 percent of the total production voted, and those opposed accounted for 16 percent of the total production voted.

For the program to continue, it must have been approved by at least a majority of those persons voting for approval who were engaged in the production, feeding or slaughter of lambs during calendar year 2004 and who also represent a majority of the volume of lambs produced, fed or slaughtered.

Because voters favored to continue the referendum, refunds will no longer be available after today. Any person who sells ovine animals today and who wants a refund must complete a refund application today and fax or e-mail the form to the American Lamb Board at (303) 217-7599 by close of business today. The form can be located on USDA’s Web site at www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/mpb/lamb/LS85.pdf. The American Lamb Board will initiate payment of refund requests, or pay a pro rata share thereof, within 90 days of today’s announcement.

The goal of the program is to strengthen the position of, and to develop and expand the markets for, ovine animals and ovine products. Under the program, producers, seedstock producers (breeders), feeders and exporters are required to pay an assessment of one-half cent ($.005) per pound when live ovine animals are sold. The first handler, primarily packers, will pay an additional 30 cents per head on ovine animals purchased for slaughter. Importers are not assessed.

AMS monitors activities carried out under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996, which authorizes the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information Order.

A notice of the results of the referendum will be published in a future Federal Register. For copies, contact Kenneth R. Payne, Chief, Marketing Programs Branch, AMS Livestock and Seed Program, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., USDA STOP 0251, Washington, DC 20090-0251; telephone (202) 720-1115; fax (202) 720-1125; or e-mail kenneth.payne@usda.gov.

USDA