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Labor Rules Likely Will Put Some Wyo Sheep Producers Out Of The Business

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Rebecca Martinez
/
Wyoming Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Labor is considering whether to institute a new rule that would raise the required pay of foreign sheep herders with visas.

The rule would increase pay from $750 dollars a month plus room and board to $24-hundred dollars a month plus room and board. Those in the sheep industry say the increase could put them out of business and they apparently aren’t crying wolf.

University of Wyoming Ag Economist John Ritten and others studied the impact the rules would have on Wyoming producers and they doubt there is any way they would make enough money to make up for the increase in wages. 

"The sheep industry is going to have a drastic impact due to this. The sheep numbers have been steadily declining since the 1960’s anyway and this just one more detriment to the industry. It’s gonna have a major impact and sheep numbers are going to go down if this go into effect just because we can’t cover the costs."

Ritten adds that producers are operating on a thin margin already and this change could do them in.

"What that looks like in the short term is that there’s going to be a lot of people that go out of business, in the long term we expect to see some sort of industry shift towards other animals that are less reliant on herders."

Ritten says it’s next to impossible to find U.S. workers to take these jobs. The governor and the Wyoming Woolgrowers Association are among those who have asked the Department of Labor to reconsider. Public comment ended Monday.

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