Earlier this week, a coalition of Wisconsin business and community leaders came together in Madison for the launch of the “Reason for Reform” campaign, highlighting the need for immigration reform and presenting data about the significant contributions immigrants make to the state’s economy.
The event was hosted by the Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE) and the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County, and featured speakers from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Dairy Business Association (DBA).
John Holevoet, Director of Governmental Affairs for DBA, sat down with AgWired following his presentation, where he discussed DBA’s involvement in the campaign and the many ways that immigration reform is necessary for the economic sustainability of Wisconsin’s 40 billion dollar dairy industry.
“I think its very safe to assume that a majority of the workforce in the dairy industry has immigrant backgrounds, and immigrants are not only important to our workforce but to the future of the industry, because these individuals are the upcoming leaders of the industry,” said Holevoet. “These people are our future herdsman and managers on farms, and some may become future farmers themselves, which is something I think we should encourage.”
Holevoet explained that the dairy industry’s main concerns are related to the flaws that exist within the current H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa system, and how those flaws make the system difficult for both dairy producers and immigrants seeking work on Wisconsin dairy farms.
“The existing agricultural visa system is not designed for dairy employment, it’s set up for people who are going to be traveling from place to place, harvesting fruits and vegetables, and it’s short term,” he said. “We are really looking for a long term visa solution that would help people like us who have livestock we need to care for on a daily basis, cows we need to milk two or three times a day every day of the year. This is not seasonal work and we can’t have a seasonal visa to address it.”
Listen to my full interview with John here:
Interview with John Holevoet, Dairy Business Association