LEWISTON – Michael Tardy, executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties, is encouraging producers to sign up for the $18 million Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Payment Program.

The sign-up provides payments to sheep and lamb producers to encourage the replacement and retention of ewe lamb breeding stock, which will help relieve economic injuries suffered by the domestic lamb and sheep industry.

An estimated 66,800 sheep and lamb operations in the United States have experienced long-term poor market conditions, which has led to reduced incomes. Increased imports and extreme drought conditions in domestic sheep-producing areas have forced producers to decrease production and flock size. The 2003 lamb crop is expected to total 4.13 million, down 5 percent from 2002.

Subject to the availability of funds, producers will receive $18 for each qualifying ewe lamb retained or purchased for breeding purposes during a specified period. If the amount of approved applications exceeds available funding, USDA will apply a national factor to reduce payments to producers.

An eligible producer must have purchased or retained ewe lambs for breeding purposes between Aug. 1, 2003, and July 31, 2004, and must have retained the qualifying ewe lambs in the herd for at least one offspring lambing cycle. The producer must not have received funds under USDA’s Lamb Meat Adjustment Assistance Program for the same ewe lamb and be engaged in the business of producing and marketing agricultural products at the time of filing the application.

Sign-up deadline will be announced at a later date. Producers must apply for the program by completing form FSA-384, “Ewe Lamb Replacement/Retention Payment Program Application.” The form is available at local Farm Service Agency offices and on USDA’s Web site at http://forms.sc.egov.usda.gov/eforms/mainservlet.

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