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March 16, 2009   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
March 16, 2009

Any producer of goat and/or sheep in the state of Alabama is eligible to cast a vote, but must vote in person at a polling place established in each county.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama goat and sheep producers will go to the polls Tuesday, May 12, to decide whether the Alabama Sheep & Goat Checkoff program should be continued for five more years at the current collection rate of 50 cents per head of sheep or goat sold in the state.

Any producer of goat and/or sheep in the state of Alabama is eligible to cast a vote, but must vote in person at a polling place established in each county. The office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in each county has been established as the official polling location for the referendum. Producers will be able to vote between 8 a.m. and the close of business at their county Extension office.

Program funds are collected by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, which remits the funds quarterly to the Alabama Meat Goat & Sheep Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. A producer committee representing Alabama Meat Goat & Sheep Producers members from across the state determines how the funds are distributed.

The first Alabama Sheep & Goat Checkoff Program passed in January 2004. Alabama law requires a statewide producer referendum to be held every five years on whether the program should be continued. If approved, funds would be utilized to promote education, market development, research, youth livestock shows and other areas to further the state's sheep and goat industries.

Wess Hallman, chairman of the Alabama Meat Goat & Sheep Producers, said the checkoff program had been extremely important to goat and sheep farmers in Alabama.

"One hundred percent of the money spent has gone directly to promoting goat and sheep in Alabama," said Hallman. "Since 2004, we have been able to sponsor countless educational meetings, expose new people to lamb and goat products and ensure the involvement of youth in agricultural activities. We have also allocated a significant amount of resources for other projects like the Small Ruminant Pocket Guide, the purchase of panels to be used at shows and hands-on demonstrations and the distribution of products made from wool."

The goat industry has experienced rapid growth in Alabama over the past few years, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service. In 2005, Alabama reported 37,800 head of goats. By 2009, this number has risen to 65,000, almost doubling in less than five years.

Mitt Walker, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Meat Goat & Sheep Division, pointed out that with this type of rapid growth, the checkoff program is more important than ever.

"This program allows farmers to voluntarily contribute to a pool of monies that is then reinvested in promoting the products they produce," he said. "As the demand for goat and lamb products continues to rise, this program will allow Alabama's goat and sheep producers to position their products to meet this demand."

Alabama is currently the only state in the nation with a state sheep and goat checkoff. Although it is voluntary and farmers may request a refund of the assessment, Walker said refunds were at an all-time low in 2008, at about 0.1 percent. "This is a testament to the producer's support and recognition of the great things the program has accomplished over the last five years."

For more information regarding the referendum, contact Walker at (334) 613-4757 or (800) 392-5705, ext. 4757 or you can email him at MWalker@AlfaFarmers.org.

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