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USDA announces sheep marketing changes

U.S. sheep producers soon will have two new tools with which to market their animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's newly created sheep production and marketing grant program will allocate about $1.5 million. Also, an existing USDA program...

U.S. sheep producers soon will have two new tools with which to market their animals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's newly created sheep production and marketing grant program will allocate about $1.5 million. Also, an existing USDA program aimed at small-scale livestock producers is being expanded to the grass-fed sheep industry.

The announcement was made July 28 by Edward Avalos, USDA secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, at the headquarters of the Englewood, Colo.-based American Sheep Industry Association. The group represents 82,000 sheep producers of all sizes nationwide.

The U.S. sheep industry says 18 jobs are created for every 1,000 ewes.

Avalos, who grew up on a family farm in New Mexico, says sheep are important to him, personally and professionally.

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The marketing tools are part of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, which Avalos oversees.

The sheep production and marketing grant program, funded by the new farm bill, seeks to enhance sheep production and marketing by improving infrastructure and "supporting innovative approaches to address long-term needs," according to USDA.

The program is aimed at a national sheep organization, which will implement it on behalf of individual producers, Avalos says.

Eligible organizations must submit an application for federal assistance and sign a grant agreement via www.grants.gov . by Aug. 28. Applications received after the deadline won't be considered. More information: www.ams.usda.gov/SPMGP .

The USDA Grass Fed Program for Small and Very Small Producers seeks to help animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard. The program, first announced in April for the grass-fed beef industry, is now open to ranchers who market lambs produced from 99 or fewer ewes per year. More information: www.ams.usda.gov/GrassFedSVS .

USDA says it has a number of programs available for small and midsized producers. More information on them: www.usda.gov/small-midsized-farmer-resources.xml .

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