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Immigration Crisis Hinders South Dakota's Dairy Industry, Threatens Food Supply
South Dakota Ag Connection - 06/12/2023

The dairy industry in South Dakota is facing significant challenges due to the lack of action on immigration, jeopardizing agricultural growth and the country's food supply. South Dakota's booming dairy industry heavily relies on foreign-born workers, as most Americans are unwilling to take on the demanding jobs in the sector.

However, outdated immigration policies and the failure of Congress to address the issue are exacerbating the labor shortage.

Efforts to fix the system, such as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, have failed in Congress, hindering the industry's ability to secure a stable workforce. The act, which aimed to provide a path to permanent residency for undocumented agricultural workers, was opposed by some representatives who argued that it favored certain states over others.

The consequences of the labor shortage are already being felt by dairy farmers, who struggle to find and retain workers. Without a solution, South Dakota's agricultural economy and its $1 billion dairy industry are at risk. The increasing reliance on foreign workers highlights the need for improved visa programs tailored to the specific needs of the dairy industry.

Failure to address the immigration crisis not only hampers agricultural growth but also threatens national security. The potential reliance on overseas food production in the face of supply disruptions or geopolitical conflicts could lead to price fluctuations and shortages.

It is crucial for Congress to prioritize immigration reform, starting with targeted improvements to the guest worker programs that support the dairy industry. Otherwise, the consequences will be felt not only by farmers but also by consumers and the stability of the nation's food supply.


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