The dairy community has been less than enthusiastic in response to President Obama’s executive order regarding immigration. While the measures move in the right direction, several industry organizations say that the order doesn’t go far enough to make the needed impact on the agricultural community.

On Nov. 20, Obama outlined his plan to rework the current immigration system by executive order. Measures include increased border presence, expedited deportation of criminals and an offer of temporary relief to some illegal immigrants.

Watch a video of Obama’s announcement.

This order will allow some, including the undocumented parents of citizens and legal residents, to temporarily stay in the country without fear of deportation. The offer to “come out of the shadows” extends to those who:

  • Have been in the U.S. at least five years
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Are willing to pay a fee and to begin paying taxes

Western United Dairymen (WUD) released a statement saying that although it is difficult to accurately assess the full impact on the agricultural community, the measures are only limited, temporary and won’t do enough to help operations struggling to find necessary labor.

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The American Farm Bureau echoed these sentiments, stating that they didn’t expect the initiative to help farmers deal with real labor challenges in a practical way.

Further, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation responded to the announcement by stating the need for “a new, flexible visa program that allows long-term access for foreign-born guest workers” and that any future changes also include removing the "touch-back" system, which requires workers to return to their home country each year. This regulation has been especially concerning for the year-round labor needs of the dairy industry.

Even as the ag community expressed its collective concerns, the Milk Producers Council acknowledged that though the order didn’t include much needed agriculture measures, it would bring more attention to the needs of the industry and hopefully produce a more permanent and far-reaching fix in Congress. PD

Summarized by Progressive Dairyman staff from cited sources