SUBSCRIBE

Breaking News on Dairy Processing & Markets

Trends > Consolidation

NMPF president warns that US dairy labor shortage could become ‘dire’

7 comments
Mary Ellen Shoup

By Mary Ellen Shoup+

13-Mar-2017
Last updated on 14-Mar-2017 at 10:36 GMT2017-03-14T10:36:03Z

The US dairy industry relies heavily on immigrant workers, the NMPF president and CEO said. © iStock/anantols
The US dairy industry relies heavily on immigrant workers, the NMPF president and CEO said. © iStock/anantols

The US dairy industry has faced labor shortage issues for years, but the situation may become more unfavorable under the Trump Administration as its immigration policies will likely hit the immigrant-reliant dairy industry hard, NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern warned. 

Actions such as building a multi-billion-dollar border wall between the US and Mexico as well as hiring thousands of immigration officers to locate and deport undocumented individuals will have a negative impact on the stability of US dairy’s workforce.

A little over half (51%) of the dairy industry workforce is made up of foreign-born workers, a national study conducted by economists at Texas A&M found.

“Because such a large volume of milk production depends on them, losing even just a portion of foreign-born undocumented workers would have serious implications for both farmers and consumers,” Mulhern said.

According to Mulhern, in the worst-case scenario, a complete loss of immigrant labor in dairy farming could result in an economic loss of $32bn and 208,000 jobs.

“Not only would farm workers be lost, but those further down the value chain whose jobs are tied to crop, produce and livestock production would be at risk.”

NMPF proposes solution to labor shortage

The dairy industry in the US as a whole feels uncertain about the future of its workforce, according to Mulhern. As a response to the general confusion surrounding future immigration policies, NMPF proposed a solution based on two key principles:

1. Providing an affordable and efficient guest-worker program that ensures the continued availability of immigrant labor for all of agriculture, including dairies; and

2. Permitting those currently employed or with employment history in the US to earn the right to work here legally, regardless of their current legal status.

The current way to address labor shortages in the dairy industry is through the H-2A temporary and seasonal foreign agricultural workforce program, designed to help dairy farmers and processors fulfil short-term job needs.

“Many jobs in farming and food processing are not seasonal and thus can’t use the H-2A program at all – which is why dairy farmers need another approach, not one centered on reforming H-2A,” he said.

Mulhern stressed that NMPF’s proposed solution is not intended to undermine the importance of border security and interior law enforcement, but that such measures must be paired with a focus on the current and future agricultural labor needs in the US.

Post a comment

Comment title *
Your comment *
Your name *
Your email *

We will not publish your email on the site

I agree to Terms and Conditions

These comments have not been moderated. You are encouraged to participate with comments that are relevant to our news stories. You should not post comments that are abusive, threatening, defamatory, misleading or invasive of privacy. For the full terms and conditions for commenting see clause 7 of our Terms and Conditions ‘Participating in Online Communities’. These terms may be updated from time to time, so please read them before posting a comment. Any comment that violates these terms may be removed in its entirety as we do not edit comments. If you wish to complain about a comment please use the "REPORT ABUSE" button or contact the editors.

7 comments

We are all in this together

I own and operate a large dairy. We are family owned. We got larger to be more cost effective and efficient. I don't understand the comments about cheap labor! We pay $2-$6 above minimum wage depending on experience. We also offer medical insurance and 1 week paid vacation per year with an additional 3 sick days per year. Every employee has to provide documentation. I struggle to find the help we need. I have trained countless people but the work ethic I see these days is saddening. Many have alcohol dependency, or drugs or just don't want to work very hard because they can easily apply for welfare. Until handouts are limited I doubt we will see a workforce that is willing to work!

Report abuse

Posted by DLopes
22 March 2017 | 20h282017-03-22T20:28:12Z

Oversupply agree

We're on the same page. Have no sympathy for mega dairies employee problems. Illegal laborers need to go. Maybe then the small family farms can survive.

Report abuse

Posted by BTressler
22 March 2017 | 16h462017-03-22T16:46:16Z

Too much milk

I am a owner operator I am working at illegal wage rate for my labor . I have 8 American workers 3 post military they do a good job but do not want to work 12 hour days 6 days a week . I have a secedual board like a fast food business. I am no longer able to compete with the mega dairies and there illegal workers. What happen to all the small family dairy farmers that did everything they could do to stay in business they wanted to do the job?

Report abuse

Posted by David Bell
15 March 2017 | 17h202017-03-15T17:20:07Z

Read all comments (7) | Post a comment

Key Industry Events

 

Access all events listing

Our events, Shows & Conferences...