Arnie Robbins, editor of the Post-Dispatch, says he doubts that the landscapers are paying a premium for the ads just because they are legally required to run them in the area's largest daily. "I have no clue about that, none," he says. "I can't believe they'd pay more than the average citizen."

According to Ancell, both the Missouri H-2B program and the Department of Labor are aware of the high cost of the compulsory classifieds, but are unable to help fix the problem.

"We've had several calls about that. We have a monthly conference call with the Department of Labor and representatives from two different states who brought that up," Ancell says. "We haven't talked to any newspapers about it. That's not our responsibility."

"We've always had to jump through hoops and ring bells for this, but it's worse now," Mueller says. "I know I have to run the ad, but I don't like the idea of being bent over when I'm doing it."

As to the possibility that Congress will expand the temporary work visa program in 2009, Hank Lavery, the creator of Save Small Business, a nationwide coalition of more than 1,500 businesses, says the chances are slim.

"It's not looking real positive right now," says Lavery. "With the economy going south, any guest worker program is scary, politically. And that's too bad, because so many businesses aren't expanding because they just don't know if they'll have workers."

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