A notice published by the Department of Labor in the January 8th Federal Register requires woolgrowers in several states to increase the wages of immigrant workers who are hired under the H2A program. In some states the wages have increased significantly from a measly $750/month plus room and board to a measly $1422.52/month to match the rate for herders in California.

Woolgrowers are complaining that it will put them out of business despite the huge subsidies they already receive in the form of practically free grazing on public lands, the predator killing services of USDA Wildlife Services, and direct subsidies for wool and sheep meat.

Immigrant sheep herders withstand harsh conditions in remote areas with little contact with other people. There have been instances of abuse by employers who can have them departed to their home countries at will.

The woolgrowers of Idaho were spared from the wage increase and can still exploit immigrant labor for only $750/month plus room and board.

Herder wage hike shocks West
Carol Dumas – Capitol Press.

About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

33 Responses to Woolgrowers complain about wage hike for immigrant herders.

  1. Barb Rupers says:

    If the growers can’t pay a decent wage for the herders perhaps it is best they are forced out of the business.

    Don’t they get lots of subsidies for wool and meat in addition to the give-away grazing fees on public lands?

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Yes Barb,

      They get subsidies (welfare?) then they look down on their employees, pay them poorly, and the sheepherders have to live in remote areas in sheep wagons with little ability to communicate their plight or interact with other people.

      Sheep wagons might be fun to photograph, but not so good to live in.

  2. Mark L says:

    Looks like more proof that the real cost of raising sheep is not reflected by it’s price in wool and meat. Artificially supported on three tiers is just too much.

  3. Mikepost says:

    Under what rational would Idaho be excluded from the order?

  4. Barb Rupers says:

    Where does all the lamb meat go? I have never seen anything but very spendy New Zealand lamb at the Safeway store. A few years back a friend’s kids raised lambs as 4H projects and we bought one or two from them every year.

  5. savebears says:

    I was in the store yesterday and looking at the meat counter, all of the lamb in the local Super 1 said grown in Idaho.

    • Barb Rupers says:

      You’re lucky, SB.

      I talked to the butcher in Safeway about the lack of local lamb – he had no answer other than it is their policy to by overseas.

  6. Some years ago, I asked a veterinarian, who was working on Scabies in domestic sheep for the state of Idaho, if lamb and mutton were safe to eat. He gave me an indirect answer, saying “that he and his wife avoided eating any sheep meat.”
    I haven’t eaten any lamb since.

    • savebears says:

      I have never knowingly eat lamb or goat.

      • Harley says:

        Why not?

        Why isn’t it safe to eat?

        • savebears says:


          Just does not look appetizing to me, I have been around it when being cooked and I don’t even like the smell of it. Of course, the majority of my meat is wild meat, but I don’t hunt goats or sheep because I know I won’t eat them.

      • Elk275 says:

        Lamb is my favorite meat never had any concern about eating it.

        • Nancy says:

          Back when I ate meat 🙂 lamb chops in a creamy pesto sauce, was an incredible treat! On the other hand, being in the same room where mutton had been baked, made me gag.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            I was just going to say the same thing – “back when I ate meat…” 🙂

            Lamb was one of my favorites – American lamb is milder than Australian/New Zealand lamb, or so I am told.

            • Ken Cole says:

              Wolves sure like it 😉

              • Ida Lupine says:


              • Harley says:

                I’ve only had it once, from Australia, made it as a roast and it wasn’t bad, very tender. It’s…. kinda expensive so I don’t indulge anymore. I’m more interested in the wool for knitting and crocheting. 🙂

            • Elk275 says:

              Elk’s Definition of Life: Lamb I love it after a hard day of hiking. The best lamb and the best place to eat lamb is at a unnamed “La Prillia” in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, El Chalten, Argentina, I doubt if it is still there but another 4 have replaced it, all for four dollars. Four 60 pound lambs butterflied on steel skewers are roasting in a glass encased open fire in the middle of the restaurant. You request a table looking west, order a bottle of Malbec and the all you can eat special, cordero (lamb and other meats). Looking out the window is the Fitzroy range and Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitzroy {mountains of the Patagonia label}. After a couple of sips it is time for a very poor salad bar. Soon the waiter arrives with a hot grill of cordero and several varieties of Chimichurrio sauce. Eat, Drink and enjoy the some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Eat more, enjoy the mountains and have another glass of wine soon the waiter will bring another plate of grilled meat this time beef and maybe some grilled salmon. It is the Austral summer and the sun sets late and for a few moments Apenglow bathes the peaks. It is time to go back to your hostel and plan another day’s hike.

    • ma'iingan says:

      “…who was working on Scabies in domestic sheep…”

      That would be “scrapie”, Larry. It’s a form of spongiform encephalopathy, similar to CWD in deer and elk.

  7. Barb Rupers says:

    Now, about all that wool. Where does it go?

    I wear wool in rainy weather, had a large number of second-hand Pendleton wool shirts at one time – beautiful to look at, warm to wear, and water wicking. Synthetics now dominate the market.

    If I recall correctly the wool price supports started during or shortly after WWII when it was used for armed service uniforms. There was a need to supply fibers that could absorb 30+% its weight in water before getting drippy wet and yet retain its insulating qualities unlike the other domestic fiber of the time – cotton.

    • savebears says:

      I know my wife buys a heck of a lot of wool every year for her knitting and weaving, she is in a couple of clubs and many of the ladies that are members also do the same, there is quite an industry, besides commercial for lambs wool.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        Very lovely. Hand spun wool is beautiful. There’s nothing like natural fibers.

    • Barb Rupers says:

      Thanks again.

      But I thought ranchers didn’t like meddling by the government. 🙂

      Nearly 1.8 million to one ranching group in 17 years.

      • Nancy says:

        “Nearly 1.8 million to one ranching group in 17 years”

        Its actually in the billions Barb, if you look at ALL the “farm” subsidies being handed out, year after year, after year.

        The ranch next to me (in Montana) was just purchased from a wheat farmer from Idaho.

        And his take over the last 15 years in subsidies (according to the EWG site) from his “farm” in Idaho, amounted to almost a million dollars. And that doesn’t include the premiums from “crop insurance”


        Guessing they’ve got to put that subsidy/ welfare money somewhere, huh 🙂

        • cobackcountry says:

          And yet, the ag sector tends to be full of conservatives who are politically opposed to welfare. Ironic? I’d say hypocritical.

  8. Celestine Sanlucas says:

    Scabies is spread by direct, prolonged physical contact including sexual activity. It is thought that about 20 minutes of touching is required. Scabies mites can survive away from humans for about 24–36 hours, so it is possible to get scabies from infected articles such as bed linen and clothing, although this is much less common. Scabies is common around the world and can affect anyone. Pets do not cause human scabies infections. ,..-”

    Go look at our own web portal too <http://healthwellnesslab.com/index.php/


January 2013


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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