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Briefing #1: Overview of Immigrant Workers on Wisconsin Dairy Farms
Miscellaneous Publications No. , February 2009
by Jill Harrison, Sarah Lloyd and Trish O'Kane

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This project pays special attention to the important role that Latino immigrants now play in Wisconsin's diary industry. In this first report, we provide an overview of this shift to immigrant labor, the factors that explain this change, and some of the implications of this shift. Many studies have shown that Wisconsin's dairy industry is undergoing notable structural changes: dairy farms are declining in number, increasing in size, and increasing in productivity. Moreover, farmers we interviewed reported difficulties finding U.S. - born workers willing to fill these new dairy farm jobs. These trends have led to an increased reliance on hired workers. Latino immigrants are a new and increasingly important part of Wisconsin's dairy industry and rural communities, and we fully expect this trend to continue. Hired workers, regardless of origin, boost the strength of the state's dairy industry and also enable dairy farmers to take vacations and have some time off during the day to attend their children's sporting events or other community activities. Additionally, immigrant workers and their families bring their own joy, skills, and ambitions into Wisconsin, breathing new life into the state's rural communities. However, this demographic change poses challenges to agricultural communities, particularly relating to communication in schools and other social services.

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