The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.Dairy farmers are urging the government to address dairy’s acute labor shortages -- and the need for the U.S. Senate to craft a counterpart to the House-passed bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act – in meetings today with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY), culminating in a roundtable discussion at SUNY-Cobleskill in Cobleskill, New York.
Vilsack and Delgado will talk with farmers and farmworkers to address the unworkability of current farm-labor policies. Dairy faces special challenges as a year-round, around-the-clock agricultural sector because the current rules of the H-2A guestworker visa program limits its use to only the temporary and seasonal labor needs of agricultural employers.
“Unfortunately, the Department of Labor hasn’t made available the current H-2A program for a commodity that ‘harvests’ its product multiple times a day, every day,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation in a statement before the event. “We commend USDA and Rep. Delgado for supporting ag labor reform legislation and organizing this important discussion.”
NMPF supports the Farm Workforce Modernization Act as a vehicle for additional policy improvements and to prod Senate legislation that can be reconciled into a final bill that can pass both houses of Congress. Delgado was an early cosponsor of the legislation, which passed the House of Representatives by a solid bipartisan margin in 2019 and again in March. To build momentum for a solution, Vilsack hosted a bipartisan roundtable last month with key Senate negotiators and agricultural stakeholders, including NMPF.
“Without Senate action, the hard-won progress lawmakers have made on ag-labor issues won’t bring the solutions farmers need,” he said. “We need this conversation to turn into action in congressional corridors so that farmers and farmworkers can benefit from a workable labor system.”