Dairy group pushes for guest worker program, opposes enforcement-only approach.
Source: NMPF news release
In written testimony provided today to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) said that current labor and immigration policies put the U.S. dairy farm sector at a disadvantage, and that a change in laws is necessary in order to address the realities of dairy production in America.
In testimony presented to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, which held a hearing Tuesday on the agricultural labor crisis, NMPF wrote that there remains a persistent shortage of native-born workers interested in employment on dairy farms, which is why farmers cannot find enough American workers to milk cows and perform other critical job functions on dairies.
“Even in this time of high unemployment, our dairy farmers universally report an inability to find enough American workers . . . even if they offer better pay than other jobs,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF. “Sufficient numbers of local workers are simply not available or not interested in working on dairy farms.”
The challenge of hiring workers in 2011 is no different than in 2008, when NMPF conducted a survey to quantify the workforce hiring practices of dairy farms. That survey found that U.S. dairies employed 138,000 full-time equivalent workers, of which an estimated 57,000, or 41%, were foreigners.
Some other sectors in agriculture facing the same problem may be able to use the H-2A visa program to hire seasonal immigrant workers despite the significant flaws in the program, but the dairy sector cannot, a situation that is “fundamentally unfair. America’s dairy farmers need and deserve to have the access to legal foreign workers as other sectors of the agricultural industry,” Kozak said.