Food by VICE

Milk Prices Would Double in the US Without Immigrant Workers

Our milk supply would be totally, unequivocally screwed without immigrant workers. The complete loss of immigrant labor would cause one in six dairy farms in the US to shut down.

by Alex Swerdloff
Sep 21 2015, 8:15pm

Photo via Flickr user Guy Montag

The National Milk Producers Federation is probably the least likely organization you would imagine Donald Trump of accusing to be an ivory mouthpiece for left-wing, pro-immigration "losers." But that's exactly what the human-Shetland-pony-turned-gazillionaire-turned-politician may say, once he learns the results of two studies the group recently sponsored.

Both studies—one conducted last year and one in 2009—came to the same conclusion: our milk supply would be totally, unequivocally screwed without immigrant workers.

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First, the cost of milk would double, from an average of $3.37 earlier this summer, to approximately $6.40 a gallon. But—talk about a slippery and milky slope!—the US economy would lose around $32 billion.

That's because half of all dairy workers are foreign-born. The complete loss of immigrant labor would cause one in six dairy farms in the US to shut down, the report concluded.

Compared to the earlier survey, the new one shows that the number of immigrants working on dairy farms is on the rise. In 2013, approximately 150,418 employees worked on US dairy farms and 51 percent of them—almost 77,000—were immigrants.

And many of these workers are probably not documented, although the surveys did not directly ask. The responding farms said in large numbers, though, that they had "either low or medium levels of confidence in the employment documents of their immigrant workers," according to Farm and Dairy.

In the words of Jim Mulhern, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Milk Producers Federation, "Farms that rely on hired foreign workers need their current labor force as well as an effective program to ensure an adequate future workforce. And the way to do that is to enact comprehensive immigration reform."

We can hear Trump thinking right now: why can't we just find American workers to fill these jobs?

Well, here's what Randy Mooney, a dairy farmer from Missouri, has to say on that subject: "The notion that immigrants are taking these jobs away from American workers is simply not true. Dairy farmers have tried desperately to get American workers to do these jobs with little success—and that's despite an average wage that is well above the US minimum wage."

Mulhern—the president of the milk farmers association—adds that Washington's failure to act on immigration reform is preventing economic growth and job creation in many ways today: "The lack of a reliable source of workers is causing farmers to second-guess decisions to expand," he said. "That's economic activity that's lost to both rural and urban communities — all because Washington won't act on immigration reform."

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So what are immigrants, Mr. Trump? Are they losers, lightweights, morons, dummies, and zeros—to quote just a few of his favorite insults? Or perhaps the backbone of the American economy?

We now know what the National Milk Producers Federation has to say on that subject. Maybe good ol' Donny just needs to cool his toupee. Preferably in some silky, immigrant-made milk.

Donald Trump
dairy industry
dairy farming
food prices
The National Milk Producers Federation
cow milk