Many Presidential candidates are spending a significant amount of time in Wisconsin this week in anticipation of the state’s presidential primary next week, including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and the Wisconsin dairy community used the many political events as an opportunity to help the candidate understand the incredibly important role that immigrant labor plays in the Wisconsin agricultural sector and the security of our food supply.
Many dairy producers feel that Trump’s past statements about immigrants have not shown an adequate understanding of just how critical this group is to dairy farmers and American food production. During this week’s CNN Town Hall Forum in Janesville, Wisconsin, Trump was faced with several questions regarding immigration and its role in Wisconsin’s vital dairy sector.
Despite offering competitive wages, dairy farmers struggle to find and retain workers for the demanding positions they offer on their farm, and the challenge has increased as the population of rural America has continuing to age and decline.
“Immigrant workers play a key role on dairies throughout the state,” said Gordon Speirs, a dairy farmer from Brillion, Wisconsin, and the president of the Dairy Business Association (DBA). “As Americans we are concerned about national security. We cannot have national security without food security, and we cannot have food security without workers. It is better that we import workers to help grow, harvest and process our food here rather than have the food grown elsewhere and have to import it.”
Research conducted by a team at Texas A&M University has shown that removing immigrant labor would cause the the retail cost of milk to nearly double, an inflation that would severely impact many Americans whose only budget flexibility comes from the money spent on food.
“We hope Mr. Trump will take some time to talk with our farmers while he’s here,” Speirs said. “We need a thoughtful discussion of this topic for the good of our farmers and overall economy.”