May 2, 2016

AFBF President: H2A Visa Program Not Enough for Dairy Farms

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

There’s been plenty of talk about immigration reform in the dairy industry, and one program mentioned by presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle is the H2A visa program for seasonal agricultural workers.

But the H2A visa program simply isn’t a realistic solution for dairy farmers, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, speaking on AgriTalk Monday.

Not only do dairy farms operate all year long—as opposed to fruit and vegetable farms that rely on seasonal labor—but dairies also need trained workers with specific skills. “The last thing you want to do is bring a new worker into your barn every six months,” explained Duval, who managed his family’s dairy farm for 30 years.  

He said AFBF is looking to Congress for immigration reform in that area.

“We’d like to have a very comprehensive work on the immigration system,” Duvall said.

He also said AFBF would also like a better program for illegal immigrants who have been working on farms for decades. “We’d like to see a system where those people stay and continue to work under the law of the land without citizenship,” he said.  

Many people point to technology to solve the labor crisis, but Duvall was quick to point out that only some operations will have the scale to do that.

“Some of the larger dairies have the ability to mechanize, but a lot of them won’t ever be able to do that because it wouldn’t be cost-efficient for them,” he said.

Listen to the entire segment of AgriTalk with Zippy Duvall below: