Immigration audits and labor shortages at Texas dairies
By Darren Turley, TAD Executive Director
The biggest issue today for the Texas dairy industry is without a doubt the immigration audits and labor shortages that are affecting our state’s dairy farms.
The audits have shown that most dairy farmers are keeping their I-9 documentation in good order, but that the documentation has errors.
When errors are identified, the dairy must release that individual employee, who then is free to search for other employment without penalty.
This is a frightening prospect for a dairy farmer. If a long tenured employee is let go, it’s difficult if not impossible to replace someone with a decade or more of knowledge of the farm and its practices. The new employee certainly is going to have an extended learning curve.
TAD met with members of Congress during their August recess to discuss the impact that these audits are having on Texas dairy farms. Our Congressional delegation was quick to realize that these audits disrupt business continuity, and they understood the significance of dairies to the economies of their local communities.
Texas is not alone in regards to the audits. During the last weeks of August, immigration audits started on five dairies in Arizona. These Arizona dairies are very interested in the outcome of the audits on Texas producers.
New legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would be a good step toward helping Texas dairy farmers procure a legal workforce in the future. However, this legislation has a long way to go to pass and take effect.
Meanwhile, Texas dairy farmers are struggling to find enough labor.
I have spoken with many of you over the summer regarding labor and the difficulties you are having recruiting labor who will work long term at your dairy.
I know that this struggle takes a toll on you and your farm. The immediate future in labor recruitment will continue to be difficult, even if the immigration audits are over for the time being in Texas.
Texas dairy farmers face many obstacles, but none may be as hard on employers as the inability to find adequate labor to manage today’s large, modern farms. ▪