WASHINGTON — Lamb producers, feeders, seedstock producers and first handlers of lamb and lamb products who voted in a national referendum have approved continuing the Lamb Checkoff Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced.

Of the 1,971 valid ballots cast, 1,678 or 85.1% favored the program. Opposing ballots totaled 293 or 14.9%. Of those who cast valid ballots in the referendum, people who favored continuing the program accounted for 93% of the total production voted; those opposed accounted for 7% of the total production voted.

In order for the program to continue, it must have been approved by at least a majority of those persons voting for approval who were engaged in the production, feeding, or slaughter of lambs during calendar year 2008 and who also represent a majority of the volume of lambs produced, fed or slaughtered, U.S.D.A. said.

Strengthening the position of, and developing and expanding the markets for, ovine animals and ovine products, is the goal of the Lamb Checkoff Program. Under the program, producers, seedstock producers (breeders), feeders and exporters are required to pay an assessment of one-half cent ($.005) per lb. when live ovine animals are sold. The first handler, primarily packers, pays an additional 30 cents per head on ovine animals purchased for slaughter. Importers are not assessed. A.M.S. oversees activities carried out under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996, which authorizes the order.

A notice of the results of the referendum will be published soon in the Federal Register.