The Lamb Promotion, Research, and Information Order (Order) is established under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 [7 U.S.C. 7411-7425; Public Law 104-127]. . The program became effective on April 11, 2002, when the Order was issued. Assessments began on July 1, 2002.
A referendum is mandated by the act and requires that the Secretary of Agriculture conduct a referendum either prior to its going into effect or within three years after assessments first begin under an order. The order provides that the referendum be held within three years after assessments first begin. On April 1, 2005, the USDA announced the continuation of the Lamb Promotion, Research, and Information Order. Lamb producers, feeders, seedstock producers and first handlers of lamb and lamb products participating in a national referendum from Jan. 31 through Feb. 28, 2004, voted in favor of the order.
Of the 3,490 valid ballots cast, 2,807, or 80 percent, favored the program; while 683, or 20 percent opposed. Additionally, of those persons who cast valid ballots in the referendum, those who favored the continuing of the program accounted for 84 percent of the total production voted, and those opposed accounted for 16 percent of the total production voted.
The goal of the program is to strengthen the position of, and to develop and expand the markets for, ovine animals and ovine products. Under the program, producers, seedstock producers, and feeders pay an assessment of $.007 per pound. First handlers pay $0.42 per pound. Importers are not assessed. The Board collects approximately $1.8 million annually in assessments.
The Order provides that USDA conduct a referendum no later than 3 years after assessments began. Subsequent referenda shall be conducted at the request of the Board, at the request of 10 percent of more of the number of persons eligible to vote in referenda, and at the request of the Secretary, or not later than seven (7) years after the assessments began. USDA conducted a nationwide continuance referendum on the Lamb Checkoff Program among eligible lamb producers, feeders, seedstock producers, and first handlers from February 2-27, 2009. On April 23, 2009, USDA announced the results of the referendum. Of the 1,971 valid ballots cast, 1,678 or 85.1 percent favored the program and 293 or 14.9 percent opposed continuing it. Additionally, of those persons who cast valid ballots in the referendum, those who favored continuing the program accounted for 93 percent of the total U.S. production. Therefore, the program will continue with no additional referendums scheduled.
The Order provides for a 13-member Board to administer the program. The Board is composed of: 6 producer representative (at least 2 from the geographic region east of the Mississippi River and at least 2 from the geographic region west of the Mississippi River, the other 2 producers will be appointed at the Secretary’s discretion), 3 feeder representatives (feeders appointed to the Board cannot all come from one geographic region), 3 first handlers, and 1 seedstock producer. The Order also provides that: two of the producers appointed to the Board shall own annually 100 or less head of lambs, one producer shall own between 101 and 500 head of lambs, three producers shall own more than 500 head of lambs, at least one of the feeders shall feed less than 5,000 head of lambs annually, and at least one of the feeders shall feed 5,000 or more head of lambs annually (the third feeder will be appointed at the Secretary’s discretion)
In order for organization to nominate producers, seedstock producers, feeders, or first handlers to the Board, organizations must first be certified by USDA.
Economic evaluations of the program have been conducted periodically since its inception by the Texas Agribusiness Market Research Center at Texas A&M. In 2008, it was reported that for the period 2002 through 2007 the lamb checkoff programs have continued to enhance the demand for lamb. The report reveals an estimated rate-of-return of $44.45 for every checkoff dollar invested during the 2002 through 2007 period.