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Denver, Colo. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced on April 14 U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) plan to purchase up to $5 million of lamb roasts to be donated to federal food and nutrition programs.
"The 19-percent decrease in slaughter-lamb prices that began in late 2005 has been a major topic of discussion and concern for the sheep industry," states Paul Frischknecht, president of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). "The industry appreciates Secretary Johanns' and USDA's efforts to reinstate a lamb roast purchase program."
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year for distribution by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service for the national school lunch program, the school breakfast program, the summer food service program, the food distribution program on Indian reservations, the nutrition program for the elderly, the commodity supplemental food program and the emergency food assistance program. Government food experts work to ensure that all the food they purchase is healthful and nutritious. The commodities must meet specified grade requirements and be USDA-inspected or graded to ensure quality. AMS purchases only product of 100-percent domestic origin.
The return of this program is crucial to the industry as lamb-leg inventories have increased over the past six months. Suppliers began stocking legs in inventory last summer and the marketplace has not yet cleared these stocks. Lamb roast purchases by the USDA will help the marketplace return to a more current position.
"As an industry that is experiencing its first year-on-year growth since 1987 and 1988, it is extremely important to keep this momentum going forward. A lamb roast purchase program will have a positive impact on multiple sectors of the sheep industry thus help support producer prices," concludes Frischknecht.
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