September 21, 2015
By Audrey McGlinchy
Here’s a question to consider: Who gets milk from the cow’s udder to your kitchen table?
A new report from Texas A&M AgriLife finds that immigrant workers are responsible for producing about 80 percent of the nation’s milk. Researchers also calculated what buying a gallon of milk would cost if we didn’t have this foreign-born workforce.
The picture Dr. Parr Rosson paints of U.S. milk production without foreign-born workers borders on apocalyptic.
“If we didn’t have those workers we’d have to eliminate roughly three million head of dairy cattle. And when that happens, our milk supply would drop and the result would be roughly a 90 percent increase in the price of milk in the short run.”
That could mean paying nearly $7 for a gallon of milk.
Rosson is one of three Texas A&M researchers who tried to put numbers on the role immigrant labor plays in getting milk onto our tables. It’s important to note: The study did not differentiate between documented and undocumented immigrant workers.
Here in Texas, Rosson says, the effect of losing immigrant dairy workers would be substantial. The state ranks sixth among dairy producers in the country. According to the Texas Association of Dairymen, dairy farms produced 99 million gallons of milk in September 2014.
A spokesperson for the organization says farmers across the state depend on foreign-born workers to do jobs Americans are often unwilling to do — like overseeing the machines that milk the cows and moving cattle from field to barn.