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American dairy farms would collapse without illegal immigrant workers. Still, vegan activists protect them. What do the cows think?

In dairy barns across Wisconsin, farmers and workers said there is a simple truth: Without the work of Latino immigrants – many, if not most, of them undocumented – the signature industry in America’s Dairyland would collapse.

MARIA PEREZ: ‘Reliable numbers on immigrants working in the dairy industry are hard to come by.  A national survey taken five years ago for the National Milk Producers Federation estimated the immigrant workforce at 51% of the total. Workers in Wisconsin express little doubt immigrants account for a larger portion of the dairy industry workforce today. They don’t work on just the biggest farms but also on operations that grew their herd beyond what a family can handle.

While unemployment is low, many farmers fill openings by passing word to Mexican laborers on-site, then accept the new workers who show up without asking too many questions… Some farmers say they haven’t encountered a U.S.-born applicant in years. Entry-level jobs may pay $11 to $13 an hour and can include free – albeit modest – housing. Immigrants say the jobs are a ladder to a better life; farmers say the immigrants are the only means of affordable labor. So despite the rancor that surrounds national immigration policy, the workers keep coming and the farms keep hiring…

In dairy barns across Wisconsin, farmers and workers said there is a simple truth: Without the work of Latino immigrants – many, if not most, of them undocumented – the signature industry in America’s Dairyland would collapse. Hiring immigrants caught on among Wisconsin dairy farms in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to University of Wisconsin research.

Beginning in 2004, the state increased its annual milk production every year, and beginning in 2009, it annually set records – streaks that continue to this day. In 2012, then-Gov. Scott Walker initiated an incentive program urging farmers to produce even more, in the belief that foreign markets could absorb the increase. This fall, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue essentially told family dairy farmers in Wisconsin: Get big or get out. All of that increased production required new workers’. SOURCE…

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