Call to Action: Special Procedures for H-2A Workers

The Department of Labor issued a Federal Register making proposed changes to the regulations governing the employment of nonimmigrant H-2A workers as sheepherders, goat herders and for the production of livestock on the open range.

The crux of the proposed rule centers around the special procedures – from mobile housing to monthly wages and year-round job duties. The DOL is asking for comments on the amount of time herders spend on the open range, a definition of open range, the time spent at the ranch headquarters and a description of non-herding “incidental” job duties.

The proposal retains mobile housing as well as year-long job orders for sheepherders, which are critical. However, the proposal suggests a new wage formula. While retaining monthly wages, the formula to be used is projected to immediately double wages and eventually triple them. The proposed rule also increases the requirements for providing water to herders, places additional limits on the use of camps and prohibit deductions or wage offsets for food and housing.

The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is working with Mountain Plains Agriculture Service and Western Range Association to respond to the proposed changes. The draft talking points have been uploaded to the Legislative Action Center on ASI’s website – www.sheepusa.org.

“With more than 40 percent of U.S. sheep grazing on federal and state lands in remote areas where workers must be with the sheep at all times to move them and protect them from predators, it is critical to the future of the sheep industry that producers from across the country submit comments to the Department of Labor regarding this proposed rule,” stressed Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. “ASI will supply general talking points yet it will be essential for sheep producers to relay the impact of this change on their own operation — whether as an H-2A employer or as a producer concerned for the infrastructure of the sheep business if the proposal forces a large share of sheep operations out of business.”

Comments must be submitted on or before May 15 at www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=ETA_FRDOC_0001-0195. The Federal Register is also available at this link.