American Lamb Referendum: A Choice of Investment
February 2005 -- In early 2004, the American Sheep Industry Association Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse a ?yes? vote on the American Lamb referendum. It also approved the use of ASI funds to assist with an industry-wide coalition to secure passage of the referendum. ASI joins with the National Lamb Feeders Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and 41 state sheep producer associations in the ?Yes for American Lamb? Coalition.
This is important point for two reasons: (1) all the sheep-related organizations are in agreement that the American Lamb program should be continued, and in the sheep world full agreement among organizations doesn?t happen that often; and (2) none of the organizations rely on the American Lamb Board (ALB) for funding, program or staff. The organizations support the lamb board for what it does in the lamb business, and the opportunity that board gives the sheep industry itself to collect funds and do the educational and promotional work that needs to be done in the lamb arena that none of the coalition members can do by themselves.
The lamb board by law cannot encourage a ?yes? vote, so it is up to the other organizations to carry that role. Only voluntary contributions such as ASI dues are used to promote the ?yes? vote. The coalition can encourage passage of the referendum, but only you can make that happen.
The referendum period lasts the entire month of February at local FSA offices so hopefully you can find a day to get to the office and vote. We know it is a busy month for many, but the option to request an absentee ballot from your office is available. Just a phone call to FSA with your request that a ballot be mailed to you will do the trick.
Take the time to be part of that decision by voting, rather than allowing others to decide for you. Decisions are made by those who participate, and we need all the ?yes? votes that we can get in your county and state. Please remind the sheep producers in your neighborhood to vote. Producers and feeders have worked since 1999 to draft and then implement an American Lamb program. All the efforts and funds come down to the month of February, when you will decide whether or not the lamb board?s efforts continue.
Many question what impact the U.S. Supreme Court will have when it decides the constitutionality of the national beef checkoff. Most analysts expect the court decision in late March, at the earliest, and believe it will have some bearing on all national checkoff programs. If it is found to be constitutional, as many expect, then court challenges to checkoffs will essentially go away as the highest court in the land has ruled on the matter. The worst case scenario is if the Court does not uphold the beef checkoff will be that agriculture will seek the next generation of promotion programs and whatever changes would be necessary to be constitutional. Either way for the sheep industry, we would need to approve this referendum to be operational with the current checkoff program or in line with the rest of agriculture to work on a new model that meets legal tests.
Voting eligibility for the lamb referendum asks all voters to include documentation that they were in the sheep business in 2004. Just about any type of business document you bring with you ought to cover that. Please note that it needs a date of 2004 and must be connected to the sheep business.
The production vote on the ballot is somewhat different than the ballots that have been used in the 11 sheep referendums held since 1955. The production vote, as explained to us, has three lines to list production as a producer, feeder and or packer (first handler). Put in simple terms, a producer lists all his breeding herd and lambs produced in 2004 in the producer blank. If you sell lambs at slaughter weight, you could also list that number of lambs in the feeder column.
As we read the guidelines, obviously a ballot is legitimate for each legal sheep entity, such as a sole proprietorship farm or ranch. A partnership operation only gets one ballot and the department considers a single farm or ranch with both spouses involved as a partnership the same as if you and a neighbor have a formal partnership in say lamb feeding or breeding sheep production, one ballot. If a spouse in that operation has a 2004 sales document showing sale in his or her name separate from the farm or ranch, we understand the spouse is eligible for a ballot. FSA will have all the instructions on the referendum and will be working with producers on the eligibility and ballots.
Now it is all up to us, the producers. We are the American sheep industry. If our industry remains strong through promotion and education, then we will remain strong as individual producers. Vote ?yes? to help yourself.
Guy Flora, ASI President
Paul Frischknecht, ASI Vice President
Burdell Johnson, ASI Secretary/Treasurer