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Coalition Letter to Trump Urges Need for Immigration Reform for Dairy, Other Ag Sectors

April 7, 2017

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), of which NMPF is a founding member, called on the Trump Administration to focus on immigration reforms that will benefit dairy farmers and the rest of U.S. agriculture in a letter sent last week to President Donald Trump. NMPF signed the letter on behalf of all its dairy cooperative members, and was among 70 groups representing a broad cross-section of farm commodities calling for labor policy reforms to ensure that American agriculture has a legal, stable supply of workers.

“Our farmers face growing shortages of legally authorized and experienced workers each year,” the AWC told the White House. “This shortage of labor negatively impacts our economic competitiveness, local economies and jobs. Reforms are necessary to address the agricultural labor shortage.”

The letter specifically addressed the needs of the dairy sector, emphasizing that for dairy farmers, “cows must be milked twice a day, 365 days a year. Thus, dairy farmers are left without any legal channel to find workers when U.S. workers are simply not available or not interested.”

The AWC noted that the only current guest worker program available, the H-2A visa program, only allows for temporary or seasonal workers, and therefore cannot be used by certain farm sectors, including dairy, that have a year-round need for labor.

What’s more, the coalition said, this labor shortage threatens jobs far beyond the farm. Each farmworker engaged in crop or livestock production supports 2-3 other jobs off the farm, such as those in food transportation, processing and marketing.

In addition to laying out the reason why a new guest worker program is essential to the health of the farm sector, AWC also urged the Administration to create a lawful path so the current undocumented foreign laborers can obtain legal status.

“Agriculture needs a new program that meets the needs of our diverse industry and functions as efficiently as the current free market while providing the security of legal, documented temporary workers,” the letter said.