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Why are New York's dairy farmers calling for immigration reform?

It may surprise people to learn that the state of New York is actually one of the leading dairy producers here in the U.S. In fact, the Empire State actually became the nation's biggest yogurt producer back in 2012, and is currently home to more than 40 yogurt producers, up from a mere 14 back in 2000.

Our state's jump in dairy production has been fueled in large part by the country's love of Greek yogurt, which requires more milk due to its creamier consistency. Indeed, the manufacturers of the best-selling Greek yogurt Chobani have called New York home since 2005.

As interesting as all this is, you are probably wondering what exactly it has to do with immigration.

As it turns out, many New York dairy farmers have a very real need for workers to help them with milk production, which is essentially a year-round, 24/7 operation. However, the way U.S. immigration laws are currently written, these dairy farmers can only bring in immigrant workers on a seasonal basis, such that they are often empty-handed and production grinds to a halt.

Compounding the problem, they say, is that many U.S. citizens don't want to fill the void due to the demanding work associated with dairy farming, while robotics are cost-prohibitive and can't perform basic maintenance tasks.

The problem has become so pronounced that the president of the New York Farm Bureau recently appeared before Congress to lobby for immigration reform, including the creation of a guest-worker program designed to help the dairy farming industry.

Experts indicate that unless things change soon, more dairy farmers here in New York will convert to growing crops full-time, meaning production of everything from milk and cheese to yogurt and cottage cheese will likely decline and prices will likely increase.

Indeed, the Cornell Farmworker Program has indicated that in order to keep up with the current demand for yogurt, New York will need at least 2,200 more farmworkers.

If you would like to learn more about immigration law as it relates to employment, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can answer your questions and explain the applicable laws.

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