Despite a relatively small immigrant population, Wisconsin’s foreign-born residents are making important contributions to our economy. We must acknowledge that immigrants play a key to the future economic success of Wisconsin’s dairy industry. According to the Partnership for a New American Economy, 40 percent of workers in Wisconsin’s $26 billion dairy industry are immigrants.
Nationwide, the dairy industry has been challenged by the lack of a stable workforce. Many farming operations need hands-on labor to get their milk into the marketplace. But as young Americans are increasingly obtaining education beyond high school, the available workforce has diminished.
Unfortunately, the U.S. does not just lose profits when Wisconsin dairy farmers are unable to fully staff our farms. The Department of Agriculture found every farm worker is responsible for the creation of three additional jobs in related fields like manufacturing, marketing, and transportation. These are typically jobs that are more attractive to the American workforce, because these jobs are less labor intense.
Under current law, there is virtually no legal way for less-skilled foreigners without family in the U.S. to enter the country and work in year-round jobs. It is vital for our farms but also critical for all of the other jobs in the state that rely on the dairy industry, such as feed companies, equipment manufacturing companies, seed companies, banks and animal pharmaceutical companies.
There are several things that are broken in our current immigration system, such as border security, ensuring a system is in place to verify eligibility of new hires, and admitting immigrant workers for businesses while preventing future illegal immigration.
According to a new survey released by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers, 87 percent of Wisconsin voters say the current immigration system is in need of fixing — with 4 out of 5 voters saying it is important for Congress to act on immigration reform.