March 20, 2009
Sheep producer organizations from the nine western states, along with the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and Western Range Association, sent a letter of appreciation to Rep. John McHugh (N.Y.) for his leadership in introducing the Dairy and Sheep H-2A Visa Enhancement Act of 2009.
"The nation's lamb- and wool-producing farm and ranch families strongly support the legislation to codify the sheepherder provisions of the H-2A program that have worked successfully for our industry for more than 60 years," stated the signators to the letter.
The legislation being introduced amends the act to allow H-2A workers employed as sheepherders or as dairy workers to be allowed admission into the United States for a period of three years with no period of absence required between three-year extensions.
The U.S. sheep industry was unable to secure domestic labor to herd range livestock in the 1950s. Thus, the provision to utilize the H-2A program for foreign sheepherders was created and proved to be very successful. Today, more than one-fourth of the nation's entire lamb and wool production is produced by ranches that utilize sheepherders.
"The need for herders is not seasonal," explained the sheep organizations. "Experience and continuity are key to successful sheep herding because of the large expanse of grazing lands that comprise most sheep operations and for the care of the animals themselves."
This action carries with it an economic impact. In 2007, retail sales of sheep products were nearly $768 million. These retail receipts supported an additional $1.4 billion in economic activity for a total economic impact of $2.2 billion.
Signing the letter were ASI, Western Range Association, California Wool Growers Association, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Idaho Wool Growers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association, Nevada Wool Growers Association, Oregon Sheep Growers Association, Utah Wool Growers Association, Washington State Sheep Producers and Wyoming Wool Growers Association.
Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33