Dairy farming is labor-intensive, 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 domestic workforce. Worker shortages have increased in recent years, making this issue a top concern for NMPF and its members.
NMPF in 2014 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.
NMPF supports the development of a strong rural economy by promoting economic opportunity in rural areas, preserving and modernizing rural infrastructure, and establishing human services. Central to this is the advancement of high-speed broadband and connectivity in rural areas. NMPF advocates for policies that ensure rural America is properly connected to the digital world, including increased funding and coordination to bring broadband connectivity to rural areas and enhanced mapping of existing broadband coverage to encourage broadband deployment in areas lacking adequate connectivity.
The dairy industry is committed to the safe transportation of bulk milk and finished products but must often navigate a patchwork of different weight limitations and other logistics requirements across states and regions. NMPF advocates for efficient transportation policy solutions that ensure the safe movement of milk while also recognizing that milk is a perishable commodity that haulers must move quickly from the farm to the processing plant.
Dairy farmers have demanding jobs and face many challenges to maintaining their mental health. For many, farming isn’t just an occupation—it’s an identity, culture and family foundation. Operating a business with many variables beyond one’s control, including weather, commodity prices and trade disruptions, puts farmers at a higher risk of experiencing financial, physical and emotional stress. Also, many rural communities where dairy producers live and farm have limited access to mental health care services.
Farmer and farmworker mental well-being affects individuals and families, as well as farm productivity and animal health. NMPF helps meet the mental health challenges that dairy farmers and workers face through its advocacy and support of the bipartisan, Seeding Rural Resilience Act, the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition launched by NMPF member cooperative Land O’Lakes, Inc., and other efforts to bring improved mental health resources to rural communities. See below for tools to manage stress and where to go for more information or immediate assistance.