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Sheep check-off headed to ballot Feb. 25

While the political season may be over, the sheep producers of Iowa have a serious ballot to cast on raising the check-off on sheep. Between Feb. 25 and March 15, they can vote for an increase on the check-off from 10 cents to 25 cents.

John Lawrence, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Director of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach explained what a check-off is:

“A check-off is a small amount of money that is paid by the producer every time for their sheep, lamb and, I believe, wool sales,” Lawrence said. “What this is, is a ballot to increase that amount. “

According to, as of January 2012 there were 195,000 head of sheep and lamb in Iowa. Lawrence also broke down who qualifies to vote for this measure.

“Producers can vote,” said Lawrence. “A producer is any person that owns sheep for the year prior to the vote, and they must provide proof of their county of residence. They must also have proof of sheep or wool sales sometime in the previous twelve months.”

The initial check-off has been in place since the 1980s and used to earn the Iowa Sheep and Wool Promotion Board upwards of $100,000 a year. However, the state’s sheep and lamb population has declined drastically and the group now collects half of that amount. Despite this, they have experienced, an increased demand for their services.

“The funds go to promote the sheep and wool industry,” said Lawrence. “They have had this in place for many years and it has never increased. The primary purpose of the increase in the check-off would be to fund more requests. The secondary reason is to establish seed money for sheep research in the state of Iowa.”