April 11, 2008
April 11, 2008 - The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) commented this week on two proposed rules affecting the use of H-2A workers. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor each issued Federal Register notices announcing changes to the current rules. It is the view of ASI and the organizations dedicated to working with sheep producers to make the H-2A program successful, Western Range and Mountain Plains Agricultural Service, that these change would have a negative impact on the sheep industry.
The unique need for labor to care for and protect livestock means that the special procedures provided to sheepherders are very important to the effective use of the H-2A program in our industry.
One proposal recommended eliminating the long standing exclusion of the need for sheepherders to stay out of the United States for six months between contracts. This change will have a major impact on the hundreds of sheep operations using herders. It is projected that producers would incur an increase in labor costs of at least 25 percent for additional herders to cover the proposed three-months away from the job. Herding is not a seasonal job as livestock require care and protection year round. Sheepherding provisions have worked well in this program for 50 years and ASI opposes changes that would negatively impact sheep operations and, in turn, harm national production. Sheep operations using H-2A herders provide at least 25 percent of the entire U.S. lamb and wool production.
The other proposal recommended an increase in the amount of time an employer would be required to advertise a job; an increase in the cost of the H-2A application; and confusing requirements that attest to the facts that the employer has complied with the labor certification process. ASI believes that these recommendations are excessive and bring about unnecessary increased expenses. It also believes that the attestation requirement should be consolidated into one rule that clearly states which facts are to be verified.
It has also been proposed that the certifying officer be given the authority to revoke a labor certification immediately upon the final decision returning the temporary worker to his/her home country at once. ASI recommended that since the time allotted for the appeal process is short, temporary workers should be granted a stay during the period of appeal.
In conclusion, ASI thanked the departments for the opportunity to comment on these proposed rules and concurred with the technical analysis and recommendations submitted by the Western Range Association and the Mountain Plains Agricultural Service. ASI strongly urged them to recognize the long-term successes of this well run and effective program for sheepherders.