NMPF supports the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bipartisan immigration bill that advances agriculture immigration reform sponsored by Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA). The legislation would provide legal status to current agricultural workers and their families and reform the H-2A guest-worker visa program to permit year-round agriculture to participate, a crucial need for dairy.
NMPF has worked with other farm and agriculture groups through its leadership role in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) to present a legislative framework that provides actionable solutions for agriculture’s labor needs. This visa program needs to be market-based and have the flexibility to meet the needs of producers with year-round labor needs.
Dairy farming is a labor-intensive endeavor, as cows need to be milked two or three times per day, every single day of the year. Because of this, many dairy farms choose to hire foreign-workers after trying and failing to find an adequate American-born workforce. In recent years, the availability of all sources of labor has dwindled, making this issue a top concern for NMPF and its members.
In the fall of 2014, NMPF commissioned a survey through Texas AgriLife Research at Texas A&M University to look into immigrant labor on dairy farms, and the impact should that labor disappear. Among other data, the report, The Economic Impacts of Immigrant Labor on U.S. Dairy Farms, found that if the U.S. dairy industry lost its foreign-born workforce, it would nearly double retail milk prices and cost the total U.S. economy more than $32 billion.