A dairy industry lobbyist warned at a conference in Washington last week that if immigration raids hit milk farms, the price of a gallon of milk could soar to $8.
Jaime Castaneda, a senior vice president at the National Milk Producers Federation, made the comments at the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference last week, according to Hoosier Ag Today.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current average price of a gallon of milk is about $3.31. The price of milk has actually remained pretty steady for the last decade, but that could change if the new president allows his immigration crackdown to extend to dairy farms.
The last dairy farm raid that made headlines took place in 2013 in Michigan and was part of a larger investigation into a couple who allegedly conspired “to transport, conceal, harbor and shield from detection undocumented immigrants to obtain their services for financial gain.”
But factories, restaurants, and farms are fairly regular targets of immigration raids. In February, 55 undocumented workers were arrested during a series of raids at Chinese restaurants in Mississippi. One of the largest workplace raids took place in 2008 at an Iowa meat processing plant. There, 389 immigrants were detained, the Bush administration’s largest roundup of undocumented workers at a single site, the Washington Post reported at the time.
Currently, about 79% of the nation’s milk supply comes from dairy farms that employ immigrants, according to a 2015 study from Texas A&M University that was commissioned by milk producers.
The study also found that 71% of dairy farm owners have low to medium confidence in the validity of employment documents of their immigrant employees.
In Wisconsin, which leads the country in cheese production, dairy farmers are already struggling to keep workers, according to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
Immigrants “are not moving to different parts of the country, following jobs as they used to,” Jennifer Blazek, a Wisconsin dairy and livestock agent, told the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
Immigrant workers who live in constant fear of being deported also present some other serious concerns: workers who fear deportation may be less likely to report wage theft or unsafe working conditions.