OXFORD – Laura Rand, executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Oxford County, reminds producers that sign-up ends Jan. 13 for the $18 million Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Payment Program, which pays producers to replace and retain ewe lamb breeding stock.

“By increasing the value and number of domestic lambs, this program will help our nation’s sheep operations achieve sustained market competitiveness, while respecting international trade obligations,” said Rand.

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 production is expected to total 4.13 million, down 5 percent from 2002.

The program will strengthen the lamb industry by boosting the purchasing power of producers, including their ability to invest in larger and genetically-improved breeding stocks. Payments are expected to begin in mid-January.

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 uniformly 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 complete offspring lambing cycle. The producer must not have received funds under USDA’s Lamb Meat Adjustment Assistance Program for the same ewe lamb.

Producers must apply for the program by completing form FSA-384. The form is available at local FSA offices and on the Web at http:forms.sc.egov.usda.goveformsmainservlet. More information is available at local offices and on the Web at www.fsa.usda.gov.

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