With the April 5 Wisconsin presidential primary just eight days away, Wisconsin’s Dairy Business Association wants Republican front-runner Donald Trump to understand the importance of immigrant labor to the nation’s food security.
“As Americans we are concerned about national security,” says Gordon Speirs, a dairy farmer from Brillion, Wis., and president of the Dairy Business Association (DBA). “We cannot have national security without food security, and we cannot have food security without workers. It is better that we import workers to help grow, harvest and process our food here rather than have the food grown elsewhere and have to import it.”
“Immigrant workers play a key role on dairies throughout the state,” says Speirs. “Without access to labor, some dairies would simply have to close. Any growth or expansion would be out of the question.”
Even though farms offer competitive wages, many dairy farms struggle to recruit, hire and retain workers. “Dairy farmers know that their immigrant workers to be good, honest, and hardworking people,” adds John Holevoet, DBA’s director of government affairs. “The campaign rhetoric so far has been hurtful and has made many workers unnecessarily apprehensive about their futures.”
A recent study by Texas A&M University, commissioned by the National Milk Producers Federation, shows the retail cost of milk would nearly double without immigrant labor.
“We hope Mr. Trump will take some time to talk with our farmers while he’s here,” Speirs says. “We need a thoughtful discussion of this topic for the good of our farmers and overall economy.”