Monday, March 30, 2015

Milking the System?

There's an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times today that focuses on our local dairy industry: Dairy farmers, in dire need of workers, feel helpless as immigration reform sours.
"It's just crazy," said McMahon, who has several hundred cows at his farm more than 200 miles north of New York City.

"I'm a lifelong Republican," he said, shaking his head. "But I'm telling you, there are days when I think about switching."

McMahon and other dairy farmers in central and upstate New York are in a quandary. On one hand, farms have thrived because of several factors, including the popularity of yogurt in recent years and drought in other milk-producing countries. At the same time, they are battling to find the reliable, year-round labor that 24/7 milking operations require.

Locals won't do the dirty, manual jobs, farmers say, and immigration laws limit farmers to importing only seasonal agricultural employees. That does not help dairy farmers, who need year-round workers. . . .

"It happened overnight," said Dale, who watched the state's dairy industry shrink through the 1980s and '90s. "All of a sudden, New York had all these great yogurt things going on."

He and McMahon said they tried to stick to local labor but succumbed to hiring migrant workers as their workloads increased.

Both men, and Norton, blame the problem more on attitudes than on economics. McMahon, for example, said his farmworkers all started at $2,000 a month and get a three-bedroom house plus utilities and other benefits. Even so, McMahon said attempts to hire locals have failed.

"Nobody wants to go out there and deal with cows and get manure up their sleeves," said McMahon, who once advertised three straight weeks to find workers. Three locals applied, and only one worked out, he said. He now depends on Latino workers, most of them members of an extended family from Mexico. . . .

"I pray to God Jeb Bush is our next president," McMahon said, "because he's married to a Mexican woman. He gets it."

As could be expected for the LA Times, the article only focuses on the "immigration reform" aspect of the problem -- an issue dear to both Democrats and Progressive Republicans alike.  Nowhere is even a thought given to who or what might be competing with the farmers' labor demands.

It should be amazing that farmers cannot find reliable labor when the number of individuals on public assistance is at an all time high.  But actually it is not, per this NY Post article, when welfare  pays better than work.
In the Empire State, a family receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, public housing, utility assistance and free commodities (like milk and cheese) would have a package of benefits worth $38,004, the seventh-highest in the nation.
Do the math! Why should "locals" do dirty, manual jobs when they can do just as well or better by signing up for public assistance?  Illegal immigrants provide the labor for local farmers because illegal immigrants are unlikely to apply for welfare benefits. Our government's policies have created this situation.

Perhaps the answer for the local dairy industry is not immigration reform, but, rather, welfare reform.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. Mini baby factories go on for generations. Lot easier to go to the mailbox than to work.