The votes have been cast. The ballots have been counted. And the U.S. sheep industry has voted in favor of the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information Order, more commonly known as the American Lamb Checkoff Program.
First off, I applaud those producers who recognized the importance of the lamb checkoff for the future of the U.S. sheep industry and placed a ?yes? vote on their ballot. And secondly, I would like to say ?thank you? to those individuals who donated their time and effort to the ?Vote Yes for American Lamb Coalition.? The labors of these dedicated people, along with 41 state sheep producer associations, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), the National Lamb Feeders Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, all proved worthwhile as the industry decided to continue supporting the activities of the American Lamb Board (ALB).
The concept of developing a checkoff for the lamb industry began five years ago this month, when ASI leaders were joined by 75 producers, feeders and affiliated industry organizations to decide what, if anything, could be done about the lack of industry promotion of our lamb. From that meeting, a checkoff exploration taskforce was convened, representing all segments of the industry. After meeting several times, the taskforce created a proposal, which ASI forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February 2000. In the fall of 2001, the USDA issued a Federal Register notice and took public comments on the program.
Since the order was issued in the spring of 2002, ASI has carried this project forward as a priority of our sheep-industry-adjustment plan, which we had filed with the federal government in 1999, to strengthen the industry?s competitiveness.
In order for the program to continue, it had to be approved by a majority of voters who also represented a majority of the sheep volume voting in the referendum. Aware that the dates of the referendum would soon be set, the ASI Executive Board met last July to discuss how we would publicize the referendum, along with the activities of the ALB. One outcome of that meeting was the creation of a ?Vote Yes for American Lamb Coalition.?
We knew the major effort of the Coalition would be to get active producers to take the time to vote during the referendum, as we were unaware of much fight or controversy on the program. And, although we were not surprised at the number of voters, we had hoped for a larger turnout at the polls.
This vote secured funding for the ALB for the next four years. At that time, the industry will again have to vote on the continuation of the American Lamb Checkoff Program.
The approval of the referendum allows the ALB to continue investing your dollars wisely to spotlight American lamb. Their latest promotion, ?American Lamb. From American Land.? conveys the pride of the U.S. sheep producer and encourages domestic identification. A couple additional ALB success stories over the past year include:
These programs are only a handful of the activities the ALB has been able to accomplish with your checkoff dollars. I encourage all producers to become more aware of the ALB?s promotions and learn of their programs. The Board is an excellent tool the U.S. sheep industry has to help expand the market share of American lamb and foster an opportunity for prosperity for all its contributors.
It truly is amazing what we can accomplish when there is unity within the industry. I want to compliment the volunteer leaders of the U.S. sheep industry who built the American Lamb Checkoff Program and helped along each step of the way during the past five years. The outcome of this ruling is most likely the single most important action producers of today can proudly say they accomplished to help those producers of tomorrow. This ruling will help ensure that the U.S. sheep industry stays profitable, marketable and competitive for years to come.