Monday, June 3, 2013

Have rural workers gone soft?

This story in the Chicago Tribune, about the dairy industry's need for immigration reform, suggests they have.  Here's the lede for "Immigration Bill Pins Big Hopes on Dairy Cows" reported by Richard Cowan for Reuters:
From the technology and tourism industries to the fruit growers of California, there is something for almost everyone in the sprawling immigration legislation that the U.S. Senate will start debating this month. 
But for supporters of this controversial bill who are searching for a solid bloc of votes in the Senate, there might be no better way than through a provision embedded in the law that gives dairy farmers better access to foreign labor.
Dairy farmers, which have needs for year-round labor, have typically not seen much benefit from visa programs that cater to other ag producers' needs for seasonal labor.  The immigration bill recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, would authorize three-year visas, renewable for another three years.  Some think the bill might pass simply because Republican senators from big dairy states--from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania to Idaho--are likely support it due to dairy's importance to their state and local economies.  According to an industry survey, 62% of the U.S. milk supply came from farms using immigrant labor--most of it from Mexico--as of 2009.  

And here's a somewhat provocative quote that suggests rural folks are not as hard working as they once were (at least reputed to be) and therefore cannot be relied on to provide the needed labor:
For those staying in rural areas, fewer Americans now want to work on dairy farms "with their arms past the elbow in a heifer when she's giving birth at 3 a.m.," said Craig Regelbrugge, co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, a farm industry group.
I am reminded of this story from a few weeks ago, which similarly pitted harder working immigrant laborers against native, local labor, which was associated with greater expectations of fair wages, breaks and such.

No comments: