US – Eliminating immigrant labour from the US dairy industry would cause huge industry contraction and almost double the price of milk, according to calculations in an industry report.
Furthermore, the national herd would have to decrease by 2.1 million cows and total economic earnings would lose around $16 billion.
This is according to a study conducted by academics at Texas A&M, which revealed 51 per cent of dairy farm workers are immigrants.
If they were to pack up and go home, the result would be a drop in milk production of 48.4 billion pounds, and mean the end for over 7,000 farms, said report writers at the Center for North American Studies.
Confidence in Migrant Documents
Migrant labour has long been an issue for US dairy farms, with a previous report on the US dairy industry bringing the issue to the forefront of political debate in 2009 to coincide with the election.
From a total of 1,223 dairy farms, 80 per cent said they had a “low or medium” level of confidence in the employment documents of their immigrant workers.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the body which commissioned the report, said the findings underlined the “urgent need” for Congress to address migrant issues.
“Farms that rely on hired foreign workers need their current labour force as well as an effective program to ensure an adequate future workforce,” said NMPF chief executive officer, Jim Mulhern. “And the way to do that is to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”
He noted that average wages, revealed to be $11.54/hour, in the dairy industry were "well above" the US average.
Despite this, he said farmers have "tried desperately" with little success to acquire the services of American workers.
Since 2009, the impact of immigrant labour has increased by 54 per cent on herd size and 65 per cent on milk production.
Immigrant labour has 48 per cent more impact on retail price.
The study found an average US dairy farm employs 5.1 workers – 2.6 are immigrants and 2.5 are domestic.
Even a 50 per cent loss of immigrant labour would lower US dairy farm sales by $5.8 billion.
The team at the CNAS said: “As dependence on immigrant labour has increased, it has become more important to identify and document its importance to the dairy farm and related sectors of the U.S. economy.
“The role of immigrant labour on U.S. dairies is substantial and appears to be increasing as producers seek greater production efficiency in a dynamic global environment.”
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