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Could the Agricultural Guestworker Act be the answer the dairy industry has waited for?

Laurie Fischer for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 October 2017

More than 208,000 jobs could disappear if we were to eliminate the immigrant work force in the dairy industry. These hard-working folks are performing jobs that, year after year, go unfilled by our domestic workforce.

In turn, these same jobs prop up thousands of employment opportunities that domestic workers do want. Not only would the elimination of our immigrant workforce cost thousands of Americans their jobs, but the price of milk would increase dramatically and the U.S economic output would be reduced by billions of dollars.

The truth is – from the dairy producer to the allied industry business owner to the consumer who expects healthy, safe and affordable dairy products – we are all impacted by federal immigration reform policy. Without people to milk the cows, we must either import labor or import dairy products.

For the past 20 years, every federal immigration reform policy measure has failed. Current guest worker programs are cumbersome, costly and outdated, riddled with bureaucratic red tape and ineffective for the dairy industry’s year-round labor needs. However, a recently introduced guest worker program the American Dairy Coalition has been working on could be the answer the dairy industry has waited for.

The Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act), recently introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will replace the H-2A visa program with a new visa category, called the H-2C. The H-2C will provide a reliable, efficient and fair program that works for seasonal, as well as year-round, labor needs. Furthermore, this program will be administered by the USDA, which better understands the challenges managing a labor force brings.

This market-driven program provides greater options to both employers and guest workers, allowing employers more flexibility and a reliable labor force. Employers can provide more training and investment in their guest workers, ensuring they are well trained to care for animals and crops and to operate machinery safely.

Recently, the American Dairy Coalition led a unified effort supporting the work of Goodlatte on his introduction of the AG Act. In a letter signed by more than 60 producers, allied industry businesses and associations, the American Dairy Coalition reiterated that adequate labor is necessary to care for animals and ensure crops are harvested in a timely manner, providing the highest quality food products produced in the world. The future of the dairy industry depends on efficient access to dependable and secure workers.

To learn more about the American Dairy Coalition and the AG Act, visit the American Dairy Coalition websiteend mark

Laurie Fischer is president of the American Dairy Coalition. Email Laurie Fischer.

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