Congress Extends H-2A Period

The Department of Labor (DOL) in early May provided a 15-day extension to the comment period for its proposed rule to revise the H-2A special procedures program for sheepherding, goat herding and open range livestock.

Comments were due June 1.

“The sheep industry appreciates our leaders in Congress for pushing the request for an extension of the comment period,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick.

Support for an extension to the comment period was voiced by many parties. Thirtysix U.S. Senators and Representatives sent a bi-cameral/bi-partisan letter to the DOL stressing the importance of an extension to this proposed regulation.

“DOL is proposing massive changes to longstanding special procedures for H-2A temporary agriculture workers that threaten to put family ranches out of business and cripple our domestic livestock industry,” the letter stated. “Given the complex topic and the significant changes advanced by DOL, we do not believe that interested parties will have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process unless the comment period is extended to 90 days.”

Several members of Congress along with trade associations contacted DOL individually with the extension request as well.

This week, ASI shared the news on the comment-period extension and new economic analysis with producers nationwide. The analysis, as posted to the Legislative Action Center on www.sheepusa.org, shows 38 percent of the breeding-sheep inventory in America is under the care of an H-2A herder!

Additionally, under the wage formula proposed in the rule, the typical sheep operation with a herder does not show profitability.

Orwick added, “Not surprisingly, annual salaries of $28,000 to $39,000 plus the cost of providing all food and board leave no margin for the ranch.”

The sheep industry filed comments and reached out to businesses in the local communities that are supported by these ranches – from grocery stores to feed companies and banks – to encourage them to also offer comments. To view the comments, go to www.regulations.gov

Congressmen contacting DOL included Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Michael Enzi (Wyo.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah) and James Risch (Idaho) along with Reps. Mark Amodei (Nev.), Rob Bishop (Utah), Ken Buck (Colo.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Andy Harris (Md.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Kristi Noem (S.D.), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Cathy McMorris Rogers (Wash.), Steve Pearce (N.M.), Mike Simpson (Idaho), Chris Stewart (Utah), Scott Tipton (Colo.), David Valadao (Calif.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Ted Yoho (Fla.) and Ryan Zinke (Mont.).

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