Utah ranchers struggle amid labor shortage

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CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Farmers and ranchers in the agriculture industry say it’s becoming more challenging to find migrant workers through the H-2A Program. That’s a nonimmigrant visa program that allows U.S. employers to bring people form out of the country to fill agricultural jobs.

Scott Stubbs is a fifth-generation sheep rancher and farmer in Iron County. He’s responsible for more than 3,000 ewes and lambs.

“I employ sheepherders and so they help me take care of the sheep,” says Stubbs.

He says he started using the agricultural H-2A Program 8 years ago.

“It’s hard to keep guys, because they could go down the street, being illegal is not a problem, and that’s making it really hard on the Ag Industry because we really rely on these H-2A workers,” he says.

Stubbs says he started the process to find help a year ago, expecting to have an employee by April.

“They went through the process, it took two weeks to find out that they rejected the guy, then we were working on another guy and we was able to by the end of June have that interview,” he says.

Then he found out that the individual was also rejected and is now waiting to hear back about another worker from Peru.

“It was really hard, my boy had to go and live with the sheep herd, which I had a whole list of things that he needed to do, so we’ve been behind all summer, all fall I mean, we got work that should have been done in the Spring that’s still not done you know to prepare for the next year and it’s costly to us,” he says.

Stubbs says he wants Utah legislators to find a solution, expanding H-2A visas, to ease the burden placed on producers.

“You used to be able to get a sheepherder, on year-round contract, now they’re making us do two contracts a year to have one, and it’s costing us a lot more and the paperwork is backing up,” he says.

Stubbs says he believes labor shortages are one of many reasons why processing costs are rising.

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