New York Dairies Talk Labor Woes, Impact of Minimum Wage Hike
A global glut of milk is now in the market, but dairy producers worry immigration and farm labor issues could dry up milk supply.
“It’s a competitive pay. I think we’re just having trouble finding enough people to do it,” says Kendra Lamb, a dairy farmer in Oakfield, N.Y.
That’s especially true for dairy farms in New York. Farms which hire seasonal workers to harvest fruits and vegetables can use the H-2A Visa program. But dairy is not seasonal. It’s 24 hours, seven days a week.
“We have no access to H-2A here in dairy in New York. We have no options really to bring a foreign person in unless they have the documents that come through our federal system,” says Sarah Noble-Moag who works in dairy production operations in Pavilion, N.Y.
"What we need to see is a guest worker program nationally. New York is not the only one that has labor challenges,” says Tonya Van Slyke, executive director of the North East Dairy Producers Association.
These dairies say they’re reaching out locally, but aren't have much luck.
“Local folks tend to really enjoy crop management or be part of the nutrient management program on farms. Milking is often a challenge to find local labor,” says Van Slyke.
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