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Telling your story could be the key to securing a reliable labor force

Laurie Fischer for Progressive Dairyman Published on 30 January 2018

Recently, the AG Act – a guest worker visa program that could provide much-needed labor relief for our industry – was added to the Securing America’s Future Act (SAFA). Thanks to the voices of farmers across the nation, Capitol Hill is beginning to understand that the dairy industry needs a viable work force. However, more support is needed to ensure the AG Act remains included in SAFA.

How can you help this bill cross the finish line? Telling your story is key.

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The Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act)

Thanks to the hard work of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the AG Act has been added to a larger bill – the Securing America’s Future Act (SAFA). The AG Act will create a new visa category – the H-2C visa – which is suitable for the year-round labor needs of the dairy industry. This new visa will provide an opportunity for our current workforce to leave and reenter the U.S. as guest workers, as well as provide an avenue for dairy producers across the country to access additional workers from outside the U.S.

The American Dairy Coalition (ADC) is currently working to modify the current language of the AG Act to ensure it’s workable for our employers. However, SAFA remains controversial, and without clear support from the dairy industry, it is possible the AG Act could be removed. This result could be catastrophic for dairy owners and workers.

The need to secure reliable labor is urgent

For years, our industry has reiterated the problem: We need workers. But without action from farmers, nothing will be accomplished. There has been more and more pressure to drum up border security and enforcement, but what would this mean for those individuals already here who fill jobs our domestic workers do not want? After all, their roles support an estimated 208,000 jobs that domestic workers do not want.

If the dairy industry cannot adequately voice a need and support for the AG Act, it is possible it could be removed from SAFA. SAFA will bolster enforcement of existing immigration law, reform existing, legal immigration programs, secure the border and include mandatory E-Verify. A bill, like SAFA, passing to authorize additional enforcement measures – but without any means for legalizing our current workforce or allowing for new workers – would spell disaster for producers across the country.

The bottom line: We must ensure the AG Act remains included in SAFA so they pass together through Congress. We cannot have one without the other.

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Your story is the most powerful tool we have: Please speak up!

In December 2017, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), spoke to ADC members during our annual meeting. When asked what the most important thing we can do to continue to make sure we find a solution to our immigration issues, his response was simple: Keep sharing your story. Share it until you are tired of hearing it.

The personal struggles of dairy farmers across our nation – who continually look for reliable workers to milk their cows, care for their animals and deliver their products to market – mean more than any statistic in the world. The concerns of multigenerational farm owners, who fear the legacy built over decades of hard work will fade away before their eyes due to an inability to grow, resonate with our leaders on Capitol Hill.

It’s time to stand up and provide talking points that your representatives can bring to their congressional colleagues to paint a realistic picture of the dire state of our industry. Tales of the blood, sweat and tears that go into running your business as well as show the pride you take in caring for our natural resources, while feeding our nation’s mouths, provide a human face to the dairy industry. If your voice falls silent, radical voices of those who wish to end modern farming – and want nothing more than to work against us – will fill the vacuum.

E-Verify without a guest worker provision will spell disaster for our industry

ADC needs your help to push the AG Act across the finish line and ensure mandatory E-Verify does not move forward without a means for securing our current workers. You can help us by taking these simple steps:

  • Please utilize the map provided at the GovTrack website to find your elected representatives’ contact information.
  • Express your support for a modified AG Act and encourage them to stand with farmers from across the nation.
  • Remember to share what actions you have taken to hire domestic labor and what will happen to your business if you were unable to find the labor you so desperately need.
  • If you have not yet done so, consider joining our coalition. Your membership dollars go directly toward the work we do to amplify your voice on Capitol Hill. Learn more at the ADC website.  end mark

References have been omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

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

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