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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Lamb-Only Checkoff Moving Forward

Livestock Update, January 2000

from ASI, contributed by Scott Greiner, Virginia Tech

Leaders of the American sheep industry met recently and found agreement on several major points of a draft lamb-only checkoff plan created by the USDA's Sheep Industry Checkoff Exploration Team.

Several sheep organizations were represented at the meeting or sent comments on the USDA team's draft checkoff proposal: the American Farm Bureau Federation; the American Sheep Industry Association; the National Lamb Feeders Association; the National Sheep Association; the U.S. Sheep Seedstock Association; the Livestock Marketing Association and state sheep associations. The meeting was conducted to ascertain major areas of agreement throughout the industry on a checkoff in anticipation of the USDA's formal request for checkoff proposals. After proposals are submitted to the USDA, the department will release a formal checkoff proposal for nationwide public comment, expected next spring. All groups at the meeting supported a mandatory collection system. Several other major points were discussed as well. The representatives asked that a second draft order encompassing these points be written for distribution to the industry and submission to the USDA:

  1. Set assessments at a half-cent per pound on live lambs, with packers contributing an additional 30-cents per head. That would raise an estimated $3.8 million annually.
  2. Remittance to the checkoff board done at the packer level.
  3. Conduct a delayed referendum with full refunds available prior to the vote.
  4. Require a majority of voters and production for successful passage of the referendum.
  5. Create a 12-member checkoff board nominated by the industry and appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture.
  6. Authorize the checkoff board to conduct programs of promotion, research, information and producer information as well as accept funds for administering programs related to quality.
  7. Exclude importers from the checkoff.
  8. Limit adjustments to assessment rates to 0.2% on the per-pound basis and a similar rate for packers, and require any adjustment go through federal rulemaking and public comment period.

The need for a checkoff, as it relates to President Clinton's July decision on the industry's 201 trade case against the devastating surge of lamb imports, was recognized by the people at the meeting. The president ordered tariffs be imposed for three years on lamb imports from Australia and New Zealand and also pledged $100 million in assistance to the industry. He also ordered the industry undergo a mid-term review in about 14 months to gauge its progress toward competitiveness.

The government's No. 1 benchmark for the review of the industry's success in implementing a 201 industry adjustment plan is a national marketing program and checkoff. The review will determine whether tariff restrictions on lamb meat imports and federal industry assistance funds will be continued for the full three years.

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