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March 20, 2015
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Sheep industry fears loss of herder H-2A visa provisions
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The American Sheep In-
dustry Association and sheep
producers are urging the U.S.
Department of Labor to main-
tain special labor provisions
for open-range livestock herd-
ers in a proposed rule due out
by April 15.
The provisions are includ-
ed in the “special procedures”
sub rules of the H-2A visa pro-
gram that allow U.S. farmers
and ranchers to hire temporary
or seasonal foreign workers
when they are unable to recruit
enough U.S. workers.
Loss of those provisions
would be disastrous for open-
range operations and would
unravel a program that has
worked well for decades, said
Peter Orwick, ASI executive
Since the 1950s, the spe-
cial procedures have allowed
monthly wage rates for live-
stock herders and allows for
Courtesy of Stephen Ausmus/USDA ARS
A sheep herder moves sheep to research sites at the U.S. Sheep
Experiment Station near Dubois, Idaho.
herders to live in wagons,
trailers and other mobile hous-
ing because they are on open
The U.S. sheep industry has
Water quality considerations
in livestock management
any ranches in the
Northwest have ac-
cess or proximity to
surface water and livestock can
cause water quality problems.
Preventing stream pollution is
much more effective than having
to deal with it after it has taken
Livestock Management and
Water Quality, a Washington
State University publication,
EB2021, provides excellent in-
formation and tips on good man-
agement for livestock producers.
This publication was written by
Tipton Hudson, WSU Regional
Range and Livestock Extension
specialist. Here are highlights
from the publication.
Water contaminants associ-
ated with livestock are bacteria,
sediment, nutrients and warmer
temperatures. All of these occur
naturally in the environment, but
are problems when they occur at
unnatural levels. So, the degree
or level of their occurrence cre-
ates the problem.
Clean water should have
low levels of bacteria, no harm-
ful amounts of chemicals and a
temperature range that supports
aquatic life. Each stream has a
particular natural range in sed-
iment content depending on its
specific geological factors, vege-
tation, slope and source of water.
Sediment in excess of the natural
range is considered pollution.
Responsible livestock man-
agers will employ practices that
help to improve and support high
water quality in adjacent streams.
Practices should minimize direct
deposit of manure in the water,
reduce overland movement of
bacteria-laden water and enhance
water infiltration into the soil at
the point of contact.
Tools and practices that can
be used to achieve high water
quality are: water tanks, water
gaps, riparian fencing, forest buf-
fers, supplemental feeds, herding
and planned grazing. Properly
placed water tanks help to re-
duce the time that animals spend
drinking and loafing in streams.
Tanks can also be effective to
improve livestock distribution on
upland areas, resulting in more
even utilization of the forage.
Water gaps are designed to
make animals uncomfortable so
that they access the stream only
long enough to drink and then
leave. The water gaps have steep
slopes for access and are lined
with large, rough cobble, which
discourages any loafing.
Fencing is an effective way
to increase the control of both
location and time of access for
animals in riparian areas. Con-
trolled access can be beneficial in
harvesting forage and stimulating
vegetative growth. Smaller pas-
ture divisions lend themselves to
better control and reduced time in
Buffer strips with larger,
woody vegetation help to stabi-
lize streambanks and promote
good moisture infiltration into
Feeding supplements to live-
stock attracts the animals away
from sensitive areas and toward
more remote, steep areas, which
can facilitate more even forage
utilization and sustain higher lev-
els of water quality.
Herding is another way to
control livestock movement and
enhance desired time of access
and placement over the land-
scape. Herding adds the cost of
the herder or rider who moves the
animals, but it is very effective.
Hudson says the most over-
looked solution to water quality
problems linked to livestock
is better grazing management.
Planned grazing is managing
the grazing so that plants have
adequate time for recovery after
being grazed. In the next Greener
Pastures column, I will review
planned grazing management
and its benefits.
Doug Warnock, retired from
Washington State University
Extension, lives on a ranch in
the Touchet River Valley where
he writes about and teaches
grazing management. He can be
contacted at dwarnockgreener-
process, said Kelli Griffith, ex-
ecutive director of Mountain
Plains Agriculture Service.
The special provisions are
essential for livestock busi-
nesses operating on open
range. The concern is that
DOL will remove one or all of
the critical provisions, which
would eliminate a labor supply
for open-range operations, she
That would put businesses
in jeopardy, she added.
The threat to the herder pro-
visions originated when four
former herders sued DOL in
2011 in federal district court,
alleging the agency violated
the Administrative Procedure
The herders challenged
DOL’s 2011 adoption of two
documents announcing spe-
cial procedures governing
certification of H-2A herder
positions without rule-mak-
ing, according to court docu-
The plaintiffs also contend-
ed the documents set wages
and working conditions below
levels required by the Immi-
gration and Nationality Act,
reduce their access to herding
job opportunities at required
wages and working conditions
and depress wages and work-
ing conditions of similarly em-
ployed U.S. workers, accord-
ing to court documents.
The court dismissed the
case in February of 2013 for
lack of standing. The plaintiffs
appealed, and the appeals court
reversed the dismissal and di-
rected DOL to put the herding
special procedures through the
rule-making process, Griffith
Mountain Plains Ag Ser-
vice and Western Range Asso-
ciation, which act as agents to
secure foreign herders for their
member producers, intervened
in the case.
After a court-granted ex-
tension, DOL has until April
15 to issue a proposed rule,
Seven groups sign off on beef checkoff changes
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
By DOUG WARNOCK
For the Capital Press
almost exclusively relied on
foreign labor since the 1950s,
and the special procedures are
critical to the H-2A sheepherd-
er program, Orwick said.
The industry fears DOL’s
proposed rule is cause for con-
cern, he said.
More than 40 percent of
U.S. sheep graze on federal
and state lands in remote ar-
eas, and workers must be with
the sheep at all times to move
them and protect them from
predators, Orwick said.
Without the mobile housing
and monthly wage provisions,
those operations couldn’t af-
ford the labor, he said.
“If we don’t have mobile
housing, the herder program
won’t work no matter what
else” is in the provisions, he
It would take most of a day
for workers to drive to and
from remote areas from per-
manent housing, and operators
couldn’t hire enough workers
to be near the animals at all
times, he said.
The special procedures
have always been informal
guidelines and have never
gone through the rule-making
A memorandum of under-
standing, making changes to
the beef current checkoff, was
signed March 13 in Denver by
seven of the eight organizations
working for checkoff reform.
The memo requests an addi-
tional $1 per head assessment,
doubling the existing $1 per
head assessment, each time both
beef and dairy cattle are sold
throughout their lifetime.
The additional money will
generate more resources for beef
promotion and research, said
Scott Stuart, president and CEO
of National Livestock Producers
Association and co-chairman
of the Beef Checkoff Enhance-
ment Working Group.
“It’s absolutely something to
celebrate,” Stuart said.
The organizations involved in
the working group came togeth-
er more than three years ago to
bring meaningful change to the
checkoff and provide for addi-
tional needed resources, he said.
Raising more money for
beef promotion and research has
been a goal for most industry
organizations for some time, but
lack of consensus on how the
program is operated has stymied
Unveiled last fall, the pro-
posal met with more pushback.
The National Farmers Union
withdrew from the working
group, and fellow working
group member U.S. Cattlemen’s
Association refused to support
Both contend the plan fails
to make any meaningful struc-
tural reform to how the checkoff
operates. They contend there’s a
conflict of interest in allowing
national lobbying organizations
contracting for checkoff dollars
to participate in the nominating
committee that selects mem-
bers of the operating committee,
which decides who receives
Their primary concern has
been with National Cattlemen’s
Beef Association’s influence in
the checkoff program through
its state affiliates, the Federation
of State Beef Councils, which
serve on the nominating com-
mittee and hold half the seats on
the operating committee.
Stuart said he understands
the concerns, but the working
committee looked at whether
the checkoff needed to be torn
apart and completely rebuilt.
The group looked at structur-
al changes, he said, and seven of
the eight organizations feel the
checkoff has “a very workable
structure,” with capable people
serving on the committees and a
number of qualified contractors.
But it did make changes to
make the structure more inclu-
sive, he said.
Currently, the nominating
committee consists of seven
members from The Federation
of State Beef Councils and eight
members from the Cattlemen’s
Beef Board. The MOU changes
that structure to include seven
members each from the Cattle-
men’s Beef Board, the Federa-
tion of State Beef Councils and
industry organizations at large,
“It opens up the process to
make it more transparent, more
inclusive,” he said.
But Jon Wooster, U.S. Cat-
tlemen’s Association past presi-
dent, said the MOU compounds
the conflict of interest concern
by putting national organiza-
tions that are contracting for
checkoff dollars on the nominat-
The Association abstained
from signing the MOU on Fri-
day, stating “the makeup of the
working group has changed
since its inception and it seems
its main goal is now to increase
the assessment with no consid-
eration to structural changes.”
The memo also proposes
a provision that would refund
the additional $1 checkoff as-
sessment to checkoff payers if
requested, which was an import-
ant item to U.S. Cattlemen’s As-
sociation and NFU, he said.
(Toppenish Livestock Auction)
(USDA Market News)
Moses Lake, Wash.
Compared to March 5 at the same market, not
enough stocker or feeder steers last week for
accurate trends, however a higher undertone was
noted due in part to increased receipts and buyer
attendance. Stocker and feeder heifers $3.00-4.00
higher. Trade very active with very good demand.
Slaughter cows $5.00-6.00 lower, due in part to lack
luster beef demand ahead of the Easter holiday.
Slaughter bulls $5.00-6.00 higher. Trade slow to
moderate with moderate to good demand. Slaughter
cows 54 percent, Slaughter bulls 5 percent, and
feeders 41 percent of the supply. The feeder supply
included 47 percent steers and 53 percent heifers.
Near 73 percent of the run weighed over 600 lbs.
Feeder Steers: Medium and Large 1-2: 400-500
lbs. $267.50-280.00; 400-500 lbs. $272.50, Thin
Fleshed; 500-600 lbs. $272.50-284.00; 500-600
lbs. $249.00-255.00, Full; 600-700 lbs. $230.00-
239.50; 600-700 lbs. $245.00-246.00, Thin Fleshed;
700-800 lbs. $210.00-217.00; 700-800 lbs. $177.50-
189.00, Full; 800-900 lbs. $192.50-199.00.
Medium and Large 2-3: 600-700 lbs. $220.00.
Large 1-2: 1200-1300 lbs. $141.00. Small and Me-
dium 1-2: 500-600 lbs. $240.00. Small and Medium
2-3: 500-600 lbs. $185.00, Yearlings. Medium and
Large 1-2: 400-500 lbs. $277.50.
Feeder Bulls: Small and Medium 1-2: 400-500
lbs. $240.00, Full.
Feeder Heifers: Medium and Large 1-2: 400-500
lbs. $254.00-260.00; 500-600 lbs. $229.50-245.00;
500-600 lbs. $249.00-250.00, Thin Fleshed;
600-700 lbs. $225.00-237.00; 600-700 lbs. $239.00-
239.50, Thin Fleshed; 700-800 lbs. $191.00-195.50;
700-800 lbs. $173.00, Full; 700-800 lbs. $196.00,
Replacement; 800-900 lbs. $170.00. Large 1-2:
1100-1200 lbs. $130.00-139.00. Large 2-3: 1200-
1300 lbs. $135.50; 1300-1400 lbs. $134.50-136.50.
Small and Medium 1-2: 300-400 lbs. $257.50; 400-
500 lbs. $237.50; 500-600 lbs. $207.50, Full. Small
and Medium 2-3: 600-700 lbs. $221.00.
Treasure Valley Livestock
Steers: 300-400 lbs. $263.50; 400-500 lbs.
$288.50; 500-600 lbs. $233.75; 600-700 lbs.
$211.25; 700-800 lbs. $166.25; 800-900 lbs.
$177.50; 900-1000 lbs. $163.25; 1000 and up, $139.
Heifers (wt.): 300-400 lbs. $239.50; 400-500 lbs.
$234.25; 500-600 lbs. 207.75; 600-700 lbs. $194.00;
700-800 lbs. $ 139; 800-900 lbs. $148.45; 900-1000
lbs. $132.75; 1000 lbs. and up, $121.25.
Cow (wt.) 700-800 lbs. $73; 800-900 lbs.
$73.50; 900-1000 lbs. $105.75; 1000-1100 lbs.
$100.75;1100-1200 lbs. $101.75; 1200-1300 lbs.
$96.25; 1300-1400 lbs. $96.25;1400-1500 lbs. $99;
1500-1600 lbs. $103.50;1600-1700 lbs. $101;1700-
1800 lbs. $104; 1800-1900, $106.50.
Bull calves (wt.) 300-400 lbs. $340; 400-500 lbs.
$232.25; 500-600 lbs. $216; 600-700 lbs. $206.25;
700-800 lbs. $157.50; 800-900 lbs. $185; 900-1000
lbs. $157.25; 1000-1100 lbs. $227.50; 1100-1200 lbs.
$122.50; 1200-1300 lbs. $111; 1300-1400 lbs. $121;
1400-1500 lbs. $118.
Bulls (wt.) 1500-1600 lbs. $121; 1800-1900 lbs.
$122.25; 1900-2000 lbs. $126