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NMPF Statement on Senate Judiciary Hearing on Essential Immigrant Farmworkers

July 21, 2021

From NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern:

“NMPF thanks the Senate Judiciary Committee and its chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) for holding today’s hearing highlighting the importance of immigrant farmworkers to our nation’s food supply and rural communities. We are also grateful to Linnea Kooistra, formerly an Illinois dairy farmer for over 40 years, for testifying at the hearing and giving voice to this critical issue for dairy.

“Immigrant employees are vital to the dairy industry, with an estimated 79% of the U.S. milk supply produced on farms that employ immigrant workers. Dairy farmers know firsthand of dedicated and skilled teams that are led by and include immigrants; most producers also can speak to the challenges farms and rural communities face due to uncertainty surrounding the farm workforce.

“That’s why NMPF has been a leader in agricultural workforce reform efforts that address two areas of reform that are essential to solve America’s ag labor crisis. First: We must provide an earned legal protection for our current workers and their families. Second: We must reform the agricultural guestworker visa program so dairy and other year-round industries can use it to supplement the domestic workforce when needed.

“Dairy farmers currently cannot use the H-2A guestworker program because they produce milk year-round. Providing an earned legal protection for current workers is crucial, but it narrowly addresses only one aspect of the crisis. We must also reform the ag labor system so dairy farmers can hire legal guestworkers and do not remain trapped in a still-broken ag labor system moving forward. Both features must be present in any real solution.

“NMPF again thanks the Senate Judiciary Committee for today’s hearing and urges the Senate to seize the present opportunity to craft its own ag workforce reform bill that both provides legal protections to our current workers and restructures H-2A. Do not miss this chance for a real solution that helps farmers and farmworkers and supports them as they continue their crucial work of feeding our nation and the world.”