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 By The American Dairy Coalition
The American Dairy Coalition held an Immigration Round Table during the World Dairy Expo in early October to discuss new federal policy options and a path forward in resolving our broken immigration system. Panel members from the left included: moderator Mike Opperman, editor of MILK Magazine; Laurie Fischer, president of the American Dairy Coalition; Jon Baselice, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute; Kristi Boswell, director of Congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation; Duane Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy producer; and John Pagel, a Wisconsin dairy producer.
The discussion entitled “So, Who’s Going to Milk Our Cows?” focused on the dire need for a reliable, legal labor force to ensure the workforce farmers desperately need to maintain and grow their operations. Throughout the United States, even in areas that see high unemployment rates, producers remain uncertain of their future as dairies struggle to find labor that will keep their operations in business. As farmers raise the wages and benefits they offer, they continue to find that domestic laborers simply do not want these jobs. So what is a farmer to do?

Currently, there is no visa program that addresses the year-round nature of dairy operations’ labor needs. Furthermore, the H2-A Visa program is riddled with delays that often times delivers workers too late, leaving crops to rot in the fields. In order to find a solution that works for farmers and agriculture, we must look at new solutions.   
“There have been lots of attempts to do immigration reform on the federal level...they have all failed to pass for a number of reasons... each one of those reforms was very similar to each other. What we need is to do different things,” said panelist Alex Nowresteh, immigration policy analyst with the Cato Institute.
Recently, a new concept is gaining traction. The State Based Visa Program would create a new visa category, allowing states to sponsor foreign workers, investors and entrepreneurs to live and work in their states. This state-sponsored, but federally regulated program allows states to determine their labor needs based upon their local knowledge of the types of workers and immigrants needed. 
This program will also allow an avenue for the law abiding, hard-working immigrant workers already in our community an opportunity to come out of the shadows, drive vehicles responsibly and enjoy a legal means to continue their important work with their families here in the United States. 
“We don’t get anything done unless you folks let your voice be known,” said panelist Jon Baselice, director of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
We believe now is the right time for farmers to become involved in moving federal policy forward. It is vital for the future of the dairy industry that the immigration reform policy which ends up being passed in Congress is in the best interest of our nation’s dairy, agriculture and livestock producers.  
The American Dairy Coalition is the only national coalition that is talking about solutions and working hard with legislators on Capitol Hill to secure a reliable labor force to ensure our nation’s farmers can continue to produce healthy and affordable products for families around the globe. Together with the 30,000 producer members of the American Dairy Coalition, who represent states throughout the United States, we will make our voices heard so that our nation’s agriculture industry is able to continue production and expansion. 
To push real reform across the finish line, the ADC needs your help. Join our coalition of innovative, successful producers and allied industry businesses and be part of the solution. 
To learn more about the American Dairy Coalition, contact us at www.ameriandairycoalitioninc.com or via email at Ann@americandairycoalitioninc.com.
 


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