The Labor Crunch
Nobody is feeling the current labor crunch quite like dairy farmers. You rely on employees to produce milk and finding workers has become a huge challenge despite competitive pay and on many farms, benefits including vacation time and health insurance. In a recent MILK Intelligence Survey of large-dairy operators*, more than 53% of respondents described the challenge of finding and keeping good employees as nearly “impossible.” Last year, only 30% of those surveyed felt the same way. In 2017, producers increased the wages they pay employees and the number of those who offer health insurance jumped 11% from 2016.
Still, getting people to apply for jobs on dairies is incredibly difficult. Farmers from both Iowa and New York say their biggest challenge is finding candidates to apply for positions on their farms.
A Wisconsin producer says getting milkers to stay is also an issue. “We need milkers but as soon as they are trained they want to do something else. Our other positions are filled with more experienced employees who have earned these positions.”
President Donald Trump’s strong stance on immigration enforcement isn’t helping the labor situation. “Some dairies are experiencing immigrant labor shortages since the election,” Ken Herbranson, a Minnesota producer says. “Workers are concerned about being deported.” An Idaho producer is hoping for a better immigrant work visa program, meanwhile a Wisconsin producer is installing robots.