The U. S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service has announced the final procedures for a continuance referendum under the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information order, more commonly known as the Lamb Checkoff Program, and also announced that the referendum will be conducted Jan. 31 through Feb. 28.

The referendum will be conducted at USDA's County Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices.

To be eligible to participate, persons must certify and provide documentation, such as a sales receipt or remittance form that shows they have been engaged in the production feeding or slaughtering of lambs during the period of Jan. 1, 2004 through Dec. 31, 2004.

Beginning Jan. 31, 2005 and continuing through Feb. 28. 2005, persons may obtain form LS-86 to vote in the referendum from county FSA offices either in person, by mail or facsimile. Forms may also be obtained via the Internet at http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/mpb/rp-lamb.htm.

Persons will vote in the referendum at the county FSA office where their administrative farm records are maintained. For the person not participating in FSA programs, the opportunity to vote will be provided at the county FSA office where the person owns or rents lands.

Form LS-86 and supporting documentation may be returned in person, by mail or facsimile to the appropriate county FSA office. Form LS-86, and accompanying documentation returned in person or by facsimile, must be received in the appropriate county office prior to the close of business of Feb. 28, 2005. Form LS-86 and accompanying documentation returned by mail must be postmarked no later than midnight of Feb. 28 and received in the county FSA office by March 7.

For the program to continue, it must be approved by a majority of voters who also represent a majority of the volume represented in the referendum.

The Lamb Checkoff Program is authorized by the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. This program provides for assessments on the sale of lamb and lamb products and for an industry board to carry out promotion, research and information programs designed to increase the demand for lamb and lamb products.

The 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. Assessments began July 1, 2002. AMS oversees the activities of the program.

The procedures and notice for the referendum was published in the Dec. 27, 2004 Federal Register. For more information contact Kenneth R. Payne, Chief, Marketing Programs Branch, AMS Livestock and Seed Program, USDA Stop 0251, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-0251 or telephone number (202) 720-1115.

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