Is Vermont’s dairy industry dependent on undocumented immigrants?

Despite oft-repeated claims that Vermont’s dairy industry can’t survive without illegal immigrant farm workers, owners of one Vermont dairy farm say automation, not illegal low-wage labor, is the solution to labor shortages. Columnist Meg Hansen reports.

Image courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Public domain

3 thoughts on “Is Vermont’s dairy industry dependent on undocumented immigrants?

  1. So if you need cheap, slave labor then at least get worker visas for these folks…… one should be in this country working undocumented. The farmers just do not want to deal with the visa paperwork. Work visas are used in every country around the world and they are a way to know who is in the country for the safety of our citizens. I grew up on a farm in Canada where apple pickers for the orchards were brought in every year on work visas from Jamaica. We looked forward to these folks coming back every year like family, but legally. And they were glad for the opportunity to make good wages and then return to their homes. People in this country do not seem to realize that there is a legal process in place when employing non citizens.

    • The Mexican workers are anything but cheap slave labor. They are paid a fair wage – usually way above minimum – and they are given housing accommodations free of charge. If they do not have their own vehicle someone at the farm gives them rides wherever they need to go – shopping, groceries, to see their friends, etc.
      As for the paperwork, most farms get their workers through an agency that helps the workers with the paperwork necessary for them to be working in the United States. We as farmers are only allowed to ask for papers needed by the I-9 form that every employee in the country is asked to fill out declaring they are qualified to work in the USA. We are not legally allowed to check their documents for authenticity. These workers are therefore technically “documented” but whether they are legally here or have a US citizen’s information that they are passing off as their own, we as the farmer cannot know. We do everything that we are legally allowed to do when hiring Mexican workers.
      As for the Jamaicans and other workers who are picking fruits and vegetables, they are here on Visas, yes. However they are on a seasonal Visa and dairy farming is a 24/7, 365 days a year job and therefore more reliable help is needed. When you can hire year-round illegals legally in a shorter amount of time than it takes to go through the process to bring a Visa holder into this country for a few months, business planners naturally choose the more viable option.

      Farm workers are being hired legally despite their possible illegal status.

      Leahy, Sanders and Welch are absolutely of no use in helping to change the system to hire known legal dairy workers

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