A few months ago, farmers across the state of Wisconsin witnessed much of their Latino workforce walk off their farms to participate in a protest in the state capitol to raise awareness of immigration policy reform. Farmers faced the reality of a future without the immigrant workforce, which currently composes over half of the dairy industry’s labor force.
Over the next 40 years, the dairy, livestock and agriculture industry will be challenged to produce more food than in the last 10,000 years combined in order to keep up with our growing global population. In order to meet demand and thrive, a reliable labor force is needed. These hard working individuals are not taking jobs from domestic laborers – they are holding well-paying jobs that otherwise go unfilled. The truth is the cows don’t take a day off – making traditional visa programs useless in providing a solution for a workforce that isn’t seasonal in nature. We have gone long enough restating the problem over and over without any action as to how to fix it – until now.
The American Dairy Coalition (ADC) is committed to being the voice of the nation’s dairy, livestock and agriculture producers as well as the allied businesses that provide the food to your table day in and out. ADC is a results-driven organization. We don’t talk about what has to be done; we dig in our heels and make the policy changes necessary for our members. ADC has returned millions of dollars to producers’ pockets by making permanent Section 179 of the IRS tax code, which allows your operation to expense up to $500,000 each year. ADC also found success with last year’s repeal of the country of origin labeling (COOL) requirement – a move that was necessary to ensure that the U.S. didn’t violate the World Trade Organization requirements, which would have caused drastic harm to our dairy exports going to Canada and Mexico.
ADC has a proven track record with beneficial legislative victories. Now, ADC is taking on one of the most controversial policy items ever faced in the U.S. Our members’ number one priority is to ensure a reliable workforce. One policy concept currently being researched by ADC as a solution to the labor force insecurity issues in our industry is a new proposed immigration policy called the State Based Visa Program. ADC, along with our members, has a unique opportunity to work with the CATO Institute – based out of Washington, D.C. A legislative bill that will fit the needs of dairy, livestock and agriculture farms, meat packing plants and allied industry factories who rely on large immigrant labor forces may finally see movement if this bill proves to be the right bill for members. This federally approved state visa program puts the power back in the hands of states in determining what is most important to their economy and their labor needs. This concept has gained a tremendous amount of traction with House congressmen who are tired of hearing of the industry’s labor problems and were desperately waiting on a solution.
ADC is moving forward on real reform to ensure a reliable labor force. We expect other immigration options to evolve and will consider the viability of each one and how it impacts our members. The time is right for us to start moving discussion and policy forward. The 2016 Republican nominee for president must include solutions our industry needs as part of their candidacy platform. In order to make this happen, broad advocacy is needed from our industry.
The ADC is growing membership and is asking you to join us in securing a bright and fruitful future for our industry. We want your voice to be heard as we fight against EPA overregulation, mandatory bioengineering labeling and activists aimed at spreading doubt and fear in the eyes of the public over how their food is produced. As we work with Congress to pass a Trans-Partnership Trade Program (TPP) to put U.S. producers in position to be the main supplier of the world’s food – we ask for you to invest in your future. Consider joining ADC and be part of the forefront in dairy, livestock and agriculture policy reform.
Learn more about ADC by visiting its website. PD
Laurie Fischer is president of the American Dairy Coalition. Email Laurie Fischer.
PHOTO: Photo provided by American Dairy Coalition.