Wisconsin dairy farmers need immigration bill

2013-07-10T05:45:00Z Wisconsin dairy farmers need immigration billWisconsin State Journal editorial madison.com
July 10, 2013 5:45 am  • 

Attention members of Congress from Wisconsin:

Dairy farmers across the state need an immigration bill signed into law this year.

The comprehensive and bipartisan reforms approved by the U.S. Senate will do the job. Variations on the bill made by the House might work, too.

What’s key for Wisconsin farmers is the ability to hire the workers they need — when they need them — to help milk the cows, harvest the crops and pick the fruit.

That’s not easy work. And immigrant labor has been key to getting the job done. About 40 percent of dairy farm workers in Wisconsin are immigrants, according to a UW-Madison study.

Wisconsin farmers need simpler, more reasonable rules for hiring these workers. Current law is too strict and complicated.

For example, farmers applying for workers through the government’s existing H2A visa program say it takes an average of 22 days to get the help they need. A lot can happen during those three-plus weeks of delay. The crop can freeze or the fruit can spoil, said Karen Gefvert, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

“It’s a slow, arduous process and full of red tape,” Gefvert said Tuesday.

“The economic impact of that delay is significant.”

The U.S. Senate bill would phase out the H2A visas in two years. Instead, the government would issue “blue cards” allowing existing and experienced farm workers to continue to work year-round in agriculture here. Those workers also could become citizens over time after paying back taxes and fines and undergoing background checks.

The U.S. Senate bill also would grant three-year visas to foreign farm workers to contract with farmers here or to follow traditional harvest cycles.

The changes would give Wisconsin farmers the stable and legal work force they need. Many of the available jobs now go unfilled because the work is difficult, long and in remote places.

Farmers across the country are complaining about a shrinking labor pool, according to the Associated Press.

Those in Congress who represent America’s Dairyland should listen and respond to farmers’ pleas for help.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. Billie
    Report Abuse
    Billie - July 11, 2013 7:07 am
    Spooky, do you know what farm helpers make? How do you know it is not a living wage?
  2. twm
    Report Abuse
    twm - July 10, 2013 12:58 pm
    There are plenty of American welfare recipients of all races who can do this work. It may not pay a living wage but it would reduce their benefit amount. It would also be a step for them earning part of their keep instead of taking all of it. But I’m sure those in “left” field will make excuses for why they can’t do it or shouldn’t have to do it.

  3. spooky tooth
    Report Abuse
    spooky tooth - July 10, 2013 12:31 pm
    Pay people a living wage and they'll do the work.
  4. PapaLorax
    Report Abuse
    PapaLorax - July 10, 2013 8:57 am
    Start putting people who hire illegal workers in jail...immigration problem solved.

  5. AllAmerican11B
    Report Abuse
    AllAmerican11B - July 10, 2013 8:17 am
    chevelle68 - 11 minutes ago
    "Yes there is a lot of American people who are unemployed. White boys do not WORK!!!!!! Most farmers pay a decent wage! Our Hispanic makes 40,000 plus house. We would hire white boys if they would work and respect cattle and machinery."

    Wow, you COMPLETELY missed the point raised by AnAmericanGirl below! She said "U.S. citizens" NOT "White boys"!

    I don't care one bit who you are, your comment makes you sound like an anti-white bigot and that bigotry has lead you to do things that could very well be considered racist.
  6. AnAmericanGirl
    Report Abuse
    AnAmericanGirl - July 10, 2013 7:30 am
    Any farmer or farm corp who prefers to hire illegals over U.S. citizens is a Traitor to OUR country! How DARE you complain the hiring process is too hard or you don't get enough subsidies to make your business profitable. Today's dairy industry is just as dirty and corrupt as Insurance and Big Pharma. There are thousands of legal citizens out of work who can work in this industry. But, you choose to fire legal citizens to make room for illegals who come with subsidies attached. I hope all your cows dry up and you go broke!
  7. Billie
    Report Abuse
    Billie - July 10, 2013 7:27 am
    Save the farms! hire immigrant labor! Now there is irony.
  8. Whazzat
    Report Abuse
    Whazzat - July 10, 2013 6:24 am
    What they are really looking for is cheap labor. With milk price supports and crop subsidies farmers are some of the biggest recipients of corporate welfare in the country. If they paid a decent wage they wouldn't have problems getting U.S. citizens to do the work.

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