VIDEO REPORT: Some in Dairy Industry Hoping for Immigration Reform

By: Rachelle Baillon
By: Rachelle Baillon

Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013 --- 6:20p.m.

Mitch Breunig knows what it means to put-in a hard days work. "We have more than 400 cows," said Breunig, the owner of Mystic Valley Dairy.

"This dairy runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We work on Christmas, we work on Thanksgiving," he said. And the cows have to be milked three times a day. He said that yields about 5,000 gallons a day. Over the course of a year, that's almost enough milk to fill three olympic-sized swimming pools.

"At two o'clock in the morning someone has to be here to milk a cow," he said. But finding employees willing to do the work can be a stretch for some farms."We struggle to find employees, so we try to bring in labor whenever we can," said Jayme Sellen, the government affairs director for the Dairy Business Association.

"I think I read a stat that maybe three-fifths of the milk produced in this country is harvested by foreign-born workers," said Breunig. "And I think that it's a trend that probably is going to continue."

But right now, those employees can't legally work here year round. "There are temporary programs for seasonal work, the H-2A program," said Sellen. "That doesn't fit the needs of today's dairy producers at all."

The Dairy Business Association says it supports immigration reform. They'd like to see a guest worker program to bring in foreign-born labor to help Wisconsin's dairy farmers out. According to Sellen, such a move could help the industry grow. "...immigration reform would go a long way toward helping out to increase that milk production," she said.

Breunig thinks addressing the issue could help the country compete with the likes of China and Brazil."I think as U.S. citizens, you know I think we want this milk produced in our country and we don't have to import food," he said.

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