By an astounding margin of 85.1 percent, the members of the U.S. sheep industry voted to continue the deduction on sheep sales to support the marketing of American lamb. These are the certified results of the nationwide vote that was conducted at U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency offices during February 2009 and announced today by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.
"This is the second referendum since the inception of the program in 2002 and both have recorded overwhelming approval for an industry-funded lamb promotion," remarks Peter Orwick, executive director for the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). "Sheep producer volunteers encouraged a yes vote in the referendum to keep this valuable tool alive in the fight for a piece of the meat market in the United States.
"This promotion effort is designed for American lamb only and is the key to providing additional visibility for domestically grown lamb in the meat cases of the nation's retailers as well as in the restaurant trade," Orwick adds.
ASI President Glen Fisher, a Texas sheep producer, comments that the lamb program is the only livestock checkoff program that has producers, feeders and meat packers all contributing funds to the promotion effort. He relays that the vote had to be approved on both the individual votes as well as the volume of sheep represented. In the volume vote, a record setting 93 percent supported the referendum.
A 13-member volunteer board, known as the American Lamb Board, representing these segments of the industry collects the funds and administers all the programs.
"The promotion board and its programs deliver benefits to the lamb market and it has also been extremely successful in avoiding conflict among industry segments, so much so that the principal concern around the referendum was motivating folks to vote when there was little to no controversy over the issue," Fisher concludes.
ASI is a national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of more than 82,000 sheep producers.