Producing more milk won't solve problem

Wisconsin State Farmer
Letter to the Editor


For some time now, there have been quite a few editorials with a common theme that goes something like this: We are trying to feed the world, my farm has expanded and can’t get big enough, I cannot find any domestic workers, now I demand government help!

Does anyone else not see this trend and at the very least have a few concerns and question some of this? Just last week there was an editorial titled “Yes, but who is going to milk the cows?” In this article, the author stated “If dairy producers cannot find the labor they need, our nation must either import workers or import dairy products from foreign countries.

Additionally, she states that (farm) “jobs are passed up by domestic workers...regardless of increased starting wages and benefit packages.”

What? Read the previous sentence again! Having been involved in farming my entire life and working off the farm as well, I think the whole farm labor issue is being severely misrepresented.

If an entity truly values employees by treating them well and compensating them even better, there will be no issue in getting and retaining necessary talent. Guaranteed. But for some reason, I have heard every excuse out there as to why NOT to hire domestic workers.

To make matters worse, the dairy industry is promoting this notion that they should be getting preferential treatment in regard to immigration reform to fulfill their labor needs. Lobbying congressmen and senators with misinformation is downright corruption. Putting a positive spin on skewed data and presenting it as a “win for everyone” doesn’t make something ethically right. After all, nearly every industry in existence could benefit from much cheaper labor.

If the industry is having a hard time filling positions because they simply do not want to pay a competitive wage, then that is the problem. It should be noted that the Wisconsin State Farmer does have a small EMPLOYMENT section in the classifieds. Seldom is there more than a handful of entries at best!

The American Farmer has done a wonderful job when it comes to production, especially the large operations. However, let me ask a question. At this very moment, what is the market telling you? Honestly? Whether we are talking milk, corn, wheat, or soybeans; if the market is below cost of production then supply is exceeding demand. Plain and simple. Producing more will not solve this problem. Relaxed immigration reform will not solve this problem either.

If your main goal in life is to feed the world, consider joining the Peace Corps and volunteer your expertise to those who truly need it.

For those operations that are in continual expansion mode, consider the following. If you want to be a large corporate entity, expect to be treated like one. Do not expect the government to give you breaks on labor relations (immigration reform, overtime exemption, OSHA exemption, etc.) among other things.

Additionally, instead of tooting your own horns to feed your already over-inflated egos, it would be wise to humbly listen to the most concerning critic—the consumer. The current Irish butter craze is one great example. This phenomenon is due in large part by consumer perception that pasture fed cattle produce healthier milk.

Most consumers see (and smell) more free stall barns than they do dairy herds out on pasture anymore. Listen to the consumer and respond to the demand. The opposite approach simply does not and will not work.

M.J. Sobieck

Green Bay, WI