USDA offers sheep industry $1.5m in grant programs

AMS announced a new grant program to assist the sheep industry as well as expanding the grass-fed program to include lamb.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced July 28 two new programs to assist the sheep industry with the production and marketing of its products in the U.S.

Through the new "Sheep Production & Marketing Grant Program," approximately $1.5 million in grant funds are now available to assist the sheep industry. Additionally, AMS' existing verification program for small-scale livestock producers will now include opportunities for the grass-fed sheep industry.

"USDA is committed to working with sheep producers as they continue to provide quality products and increase their returns here at home," USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs Ed Avalos said. "The Sheep Production & Marketing Grant Program, as well as inclusion in the USDA grass fed program for small and very small producers, will create new opportunities for growth and innovation within the sheep industry."

Authorized by the 2014 farm bill, the new grant program is designed to strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products in the U.S. by improving infrastructure, business and resource development and by supporting innovative approaches to address long-term needs. Through this program, AMS will award grant funds to at least one national entity that is working to strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products in the U.S.

Eligible organizations must submit an application for federal assistance and sign a grant agreement via www.grants.gov by Aug. 27. Additional information will be provided on the program's website at www.ams.usda.gov/SPMGP.

The USDA grass fed program was designed as a verification tool for small and very small-scale producers to certify that animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard. The program was first announced in April for the grass-fed beef industry, and now sheep have been added to the program. For this program, USDA is targeting producers that market lambs produced from flocks of 99 head of ewes or fewer per year. Producers who are certified under the new program will receive certificates that allow them to market their sheep as USDA-certified grass fed, increasing their market value and creating new economic opportunities for these producers. Additional information is available at www.ams.usda.gov/GrassFedSVS.

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