January 9, 2009
The sheep industry adamantly supports the current provisions in the H-2A program that allow the sheepherder program to work for the industry. Labor for sheep production has been a decade-long priority for the industry as evidenced by the sheepherder provisions of the H-2A program, which date back to the 1950s. This successful program remains crucial to sheep production in the United States.
This is the message the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) sent to Department of Labor officials this week in response to regulations recently issued by the federal government affecting the H-2A program. At a meeting in Denver, Colo., in December, federal officials urged sheep industry participants to show their support of continuing the special provisions applicable to the industry's historical use of the program. Special provisions include three-year contracts, an exemption from out-of-country stays between contracts and the conditions for production of livestock and housing, which are critical to the program's success.
"The H-2A program, with the sheepherding provisions, is critical to the entire industry," stated Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. "With more than one-fourth of the nation's entire sheep production supplied by the ranches that use sheepherders, all aspects of the industry are dependent on its use, from lamb meat processing companies to wool warehouses and textile firms."
The industry request emphasized that the three-year contract is especially important given the animal welfare and management dependent on an experienced herder caring for the sheep. The herders' understanding and familiarity with the large rangelands, location of water, noxious plants are key, as is the knowledge of sheep care at shearing, lambing and shipping, as well as use of livestock protection dogs and horses.
"We ask every consideration of the department that the H-2A sheepherder and sheep shearer programs be continued," concluded Orwick.