Governor Scott Walker has taken an especially tough public stance on immigration issues, saying that he would like to see an end to legal amnesty, limit legal immigration, and pass legislation that aggressively pursues the immigrant population in our home state.
National implications aside, critics say Walker’s immigration policies could harm Wisconsin’s economy – including the dairy industry.
Wisconsin’s Dairy Industry and its Ties to Immigration
Wisconsin’s $43.4 billion dairy industry, according to one study, is staffed by about 40 percent immigrants – so dairy farmers across the state are pushing for immigration reform. Critics (including dairy farmers) are concerned that if Walker stays true to his word, his own policies may force workers out of the industry, and there will be no one left to fill the employment gap.
The large immigrant workforce population has led the Dairy Business Association of Green Bay to regularly lobby Washington on a wide variety of immigration reform issues. They would especially like for the United States Department of Agriculture to issue work permits. That way, the Dairy Business Association argues, immigrants would be able to more easily obtain visas for year-round employment, which would help end the uncertainty surrounding their legal status.
While the debate on immigration continues, many Wisconsin dairy farmers agree that there would be a shortage of manpower within the dairy industry if not for immigrants willing to work. Some speculate that the industry would have to heavily rely on mechanical robotics if such a shortage were to happen.