The 2016 Presidential election put a spotlight on immigration, and from the Republican side, a very negative light. If you are dependent on an immigrant labor force, which many dairy operations throughout the country are, it is time to determine how you are going to generate support in 2017 for sensible, logical, and socially acceptable immigration reform in your community.
There are three basic immigration policy positions that must be addressed:
First, a path to legalization for any employees that currently lack proper documentation.
Second, visas for future workforce needs.
Third, border security. Border security can only be accomplished if a well-designed immigration policy is in place addressing the first two points.
For success to occur there must be a unified effort by our national and state associations, along with the inclusion of all agribusiness, whose financial success is deeply dependent on immigration reform. Yet for the most part, agribusiness has stayed on the sidelines.
Agribusiness, as defined by the University of Idaho, is “the vertically integrated industrial complex engaged in the production and processing of agricultural products.”
The study looks exclusively at agribusiness impacts in Idaho. The executive summary states, “Using base analysis, which takes into account economic activity generated in other sectors by agribusiness exports, agribusiness contributed over $27 billion (20 percent) of total state sales, over $10 billion (16 percent) of the state's Gross State Product (GSP) and over 126,000 (14 percent) jobs.” Agribusiness is Idaho’s largest base industry as ranked by sales, the third largest ranked by base value added, and the fourth largest as ranked by base jobs.
For the Idaho dairy industry, we account for $6.6 billion of total sales, $2.2 billion in gross domestic product, $72 million in state tax revenue, 23,000 jobs, and labor income of $680 million. Of those 23,000 jobs, roughly 8,400 are on the dairy operations, and the vast majority of those are hardworking, dedicated immigrants. To say the least, many upward bound jobs stand on the shoulders of foreign-born labor and it is time for our legislative leaders to value their contributions.
Immigration reform will always be a heavy lift! It is time for all of “agribusiness” to become invested, both financially and individually, in securing sound, sensible, logical, and socially responsible immigration reform.