Dairy farmers in the state of New York are in desperate need of immigrant workers. Their farms have been thriving in recent years as the result of droughts in other nations that produce milk and the growing popularity of yogurt; however, the farmers are constantly finding it hard to recruit reliable labor.
Local workers are unwilling to perform manual and dirty jobs, according to the farmers, and agricultural immigrant workers can only be imported on a seasonal basis due to restrictive immigration laws. This is of little use to dairy farmers, who require such help throughout the year. “The nation’s food system is at risk if we can’t get this fixed,” says dairy farmer Mike McMahon. McMahon and New York Farm Bureau president Dean Norton believe that the United States is going to lose dairy producers unless new immigration laws are created, as many farmers may change to crop growing to benefit from immigrant workers who are able to receive temporary guest worker US visas.
McMahon notes that farm workers are well paid, can live in a big house and receive utilities and many other benefits when they begin work; however, locals simply do not want to do the physical and often dirty work involved. A report published last October by Mary Jo Dudley from Cornell University’s Cornell Farmworker Program suggests that the state of New York will require an additional 2,200 farm workers to ensure the steady production of milk.