Effective Jan. 8, the Department of Labor increased the wage rates for H-2A sheepherding and goat herding jobs in Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, and decreased wage rates in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Shearing, open-range production of livestock and custom combine operations were also re-evaluated.
According to American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) officials, "The industry is very concerned with this wage increase as it nearly doubles labor costs in Arizona and Nevada. The decisions published in the Federal Register create an immediate and drastic increase in wages, yet the sheep industry had no advanced notice that this was under consideration.
"Further, ASI strongly questions the methodology used to arrive at the wage rate increases. For example, wage rates in Nevada were based on data collected in California because the states are adjoining. The situation in these two states is very different and the huge wage increase would be a severe financial hardship."
The Office of Foreign Labor Certification used three main principles in establishing the prevailing wage rates for states that had no official wage rate findings:
Applying these rules, the prevailing wage rates for sheepherding and goat herding were all based on data collected in California and Colorado. Wages for Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming were based on Colorado information resulting in a prevailing wage rate of $750 per month. Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington were based in data collected in California, which is reflected in the $1,422.52 wage rate per month.
"We have shared and continue to express our immediate concerns and objections with members of the congressional delegations of the states impacted by the DOL's announcement, as well as with congressional leadership. We are particularly disturbed that a decision having such a significant economic impact to sheep producers in these states was not discussed with the industry before it was made effective," said Peter Orwick ASI executive director.
The full details are available in the Federal Register at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-01-08/pdf/2013-00115.pdf.