Idaho dairy producers are gathering signatures on a petition to hasten federal legislation for an effective visa program for dairy workers.
The Idaho Dairymen’s Association is asking people to sign a petition to bring congressional attention to farm labor shortages and the need for immigration reform.
The organization is hoping for at least 10,000 signatures by Feb. 3.
“The purpose is obvious (and) the new administration made the need for immigration reform one of their platform issues,” said Bob Naerebout, IDA executive director.
Dairymen want to make sure Idaho’s delegation understands the importance of immigration reform, he said.
There is currently no visa program to bring immigrant labor to Idaho for year-round employment, and the state’s low unemployment rate is keeping the available labor pool extremely tight, he said.
The damaging effects of labor shortages are being felt in the dairy industry and elsewhere in Idaho and inhibiting economic growth, he said.
The lack of labor is hampering investment in Idaho’s businesses and slowing growth in the state, resulting in missed opportunities for existing and new companies, he said.
Idaho can’t continue to be prosperous without immigration reform. Idaho is an agricultural state and dependent on foreign-born labor, he said.
The petition cites a “massive shortage of workers” for dairy farms in Idaho, the critical need for a consistent, legal workforce for efficient operation of dairies and the lack of a farmworker visa program for dairies.
It states: “We, the dairy producers of Idaho and supporters of the dairy industry in our state, respectfully request that the members of our congressional delegation work with other members of Congress and the new administration to develop and implement federal legislation that includes an effective visa program for dairy farmworkers as soon as possible.”
Such a program would include legal status for the current experienced workforce; access to year-round workers; and an effective program for legal new workers when they are needed in the future.
The petition began with a dairy producer from the Treasure Valley who is frustrated with his lack of ability to find labor. He asked IDA to assist with getting signatures, Naerebout said.
“We’re getting a pretty strong response right now, especially electronically,” he said.
The petition is available at: www.idahodairymens.org
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