Sheep program aims to enhance genetics

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has allotted to the U.S. lamb industry $18 million for direct payment to sheep and lamb producers to encourage the replacement and retention of ewe lamb breeding stock.

This new, one-year program, called the Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Program, gives these producers a final opportunity to enhance the genetics of their ewes.

A July 2003 National Agricultural Statistics Service report indicated that ewe lamb replacements/ retentions in the United States again decreased from July 2002 to July 2003, with the 2003 lamb crop down 5 percent from the previous year.

The combination of reduced farm income, extreme drought in sheep-producing areas and less available pasture carrying capacity or forage have made many producers reluctant or unable to take advantage of previous lamb programs administered by USDA.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and the Farm Service Agency administer the ELRRP. However, producers must file ELRRP applications with their local county FSA office.

No application deadline has been announced. To be eligible for payment benefits, the lamb operation must:

— Have purchased or retained ewes for breeding purposes between Aug. 1, 2003 and July 31, 2004, that are no older than 18 months of age (ewes born before Feb. 1, 2002 are ineligible);

— Have retained qualifying ewes in the herd for at least one complete offspring lambing cycle;

— Have not received funds under USDA’s Lamb Meat Adjustment Assistance Program for the same ewe lambs;

— Not possess parrot mouth, foot rot, or scrapie

Subject to the availability of funds, payments for qualifying operations will be $18 for each ewe lamb retained or purchased. If the amount of approved applications exceeds available funding, FSA will uniformly apply a national factor to reduce payments to producers.

There are no maximum payments or herd limits for eligible operations.

Bill Harmon is executive director of the Farm Service Agency office in Marion County.

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