From AgInfo.net, “H2A Changes Could Benefit Dairy” by Greg Martin, 20 Apr 2011.
Program: Line on Agriculture Date: April 20, 11
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I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.
Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would allow dairy farmers to utilize a federal visa program to bring foreign workers to the U.S. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin are co-sponsoring the measure. The National Milk Producers Federation has endorsed the bill – saying it will help meet the labor needs of dairy farms across the country.
GALEN: Dairy farms just like a lot of other agricultural operations are having trouble finding workers to help milk the cows and do other things on the farm and so what we are trying to do is expand and existing visa program for immigrant workers called the H2A Visa program so that dairy farms can use it as well.
That’s NMPF’s Chris Galen – who notes dairy owners are currently treated differently than other farm employers – like those that hire workers to harvest fruits and vegetables – because milk production is not considered seasonal work.
GALEN: Dairy farming really isn’t considered seasonal but then goat herding and sheep herding really aren’t seasonal enterprises either and they’re able to use the H2A program the same as the fruit and vegetable operators so this basically would just allow dairy operations to avail themselves of an existing channel to make certain their labor needs are met.
Galen admits it’s not going to be easy to get any kind of immigration legislation through Congress. He notes this measure was introduced in the last Congress and didn’t go anywhere. Plus – there’s not currently a companion bill in the House.
GALEN: I don’t want to necessarily get anyones hopes up that’s listening to this just because a bills been introduced that it means that a few weeks or months later it’s a done deal. It’s not and I think the key here is that if we have dairy farmers that are concerned about this they need to let their elected officials know.
Galen says this would really just be a baby step that would help dairy farmers in the area of immigration reform. NMPF supports comprehensive efforts to reform the nation’s immigration policies – especially legislation that would address current unauthorized agricultural workers.
That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network.