Dairy is part of globalization and trade. The implications for the industry and its immigrant employees is a huge unknown. (More)
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The dairy industry in Wisconsin is a $43 Billion a year business. Wisconsin is #2 for milk and #1 for cheese produced. Immigrant labor accounts for 51 percent of all dairy labor, and dairies that employ immigrant labor produce 79 percent of the U.S. milk supply. Rural New York dairy farmers are in the same predicament.
The first link has interviews with dairy farmers who voted for Trump and are now seeing their loyal immirant work force leave for Mexico rather than stay and hope they are not deported.
“This will put us out of business if we keep going down the road we’re going. I’ll lose everything I’ve worked for for 45 years,” O’Harrow says. “The reality is, we don’t have a backup plan.
“This country cannot produce enough food to feed its own people without foreign labor,” he adds. “It isn’t just dairy. It’s workers in slaughterhouses, it’s workers picking fruit. It’s all aspects of food is being supplemented by foreign labor. Because American citizens will not, will not do the work. It isn’t a matter of how much money. It’s a matter of they will not do it.”
Regarding the rhetoric that immigrants are stealing jobs, Ramos says he and others like him are just doing work Americans don’t want to do.
“In 17 years, I have never seen a U.S.-born worker come here and say to my boss — ‘You know what? I’m looking for a job. I want to milk cows.’ In 17 years.”
The number of dairy cows on a farm has increased dramatically in recent years. It is impossible for the owners to milk 1,500 cows twice a day, 7 days a week without help.
To add another more global twist to this, Europe is running out of butter.
In 2014, Russia slapped an embargo on European food products in retaliation for sanctions imposed over its annexation of Ukraine. Russia had accounted for 24% of EU butter exports.
The result was dramatically lower prices. In many EU countries, milk was cheaper than bottled water.
The EU would go on to intervene in the market, but many dairy farmers went out of business. Over 1,000 stopped production in the U.K. alone, according to Moreau.
The US exported $5.2 billion of dairy in 2016.
I got to thinking about our dairy industry and the shortage of butter in the European Union. I’m sure that some of our dairy would be unacceptable because some of our farmers use growth hormones but couldn’t we just let our immigrant labor stay and send the E.U. a care package of butter? Simplistic gesture of goodwill and probably not at all in keeping with our deal maker in chief’s philosophy but perhaps a little milk of human kindness would help repair his image abroad.
Credit: Adobe Stock Images. Standard License.