Illegal labor is the profit lifeline that has Wisconsin dairy farmers alarmed about Donald Trump. They fear Trump will deport and cut off their labor source and the issue may swing the dairy vote to Ted Cruz. Over 85,000 illegals and their families are living and working in Wisconsin, mostly “tending cows.” On Friday, after speaking to Wisconsin farmers at the 56th annual WPS Farm Show, a FOX Business reporter who was discussing their new poll showing Ted Cruz ahead of Donald Trump in Wisconsin, nodded knowingly as he shared the top issue to Wisconsin dairy farmers is “immigrant labor.” Wisconsin is known for dairy products.
According to a 2015 report, erroneously based on losing “all immigrant labor,” not just illegal labor: “Retail milk prices … would increase 90 percent if all immigrant labor was lost. That would drive the supermarket price of a gallon of milk, which averaged $3.37 in June, to approximately $6.40.” But why would any farm lose “all immigrant labor” unless the farms only employ illegals?
In a recent CNN town hall, a Wisconsin dairy farmer pointedly made it known to Ted Cruz that dairy farmers wanted a president who would to keep their hands off their Latino work force. He pointedly asked Cruz, who has likened Trump’s vow for mass deportation to the creation of a police state, “What is the short-term solution to keep our current labor force intact?” Always a polished politician, Cruz avoided the subject of deportation and sympathetically pivoted from “American workers first” to the shared economic woes of farmers which could be solved by legal immigration policies and innovation.
Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including mass deportation, threaten the very foundation many successful dairy farms in Wisconsin, have based their profit margins on — cheap foreign labor, most likely illegal labor. Wisconsin dairy farmers view Donald Trump’s illegal immigration rhetoric as short-sighted, joining angry dairy farmers nationwide who complain Trump doesn’t realize that without the Latino labor there are no workers who would “milk cows twice a day, 365 days a year.”
There is no doubt that deporting the illegal work force of the dairy farmers would hit hard, in the pocket book especially. The farmers look at Trump and see a presidency which would force big dairy farms to hire American and legal immigrant workers at American worker pay rates; they foresee health care increases and a period of adjustment they don’t choose to make to a lower profit margin. The farmers claim the price of dairy products would go off the roof and farms would close down. On the other hand, all over the country, all businesses that depended on primarily “illegal” immigration workers, would be adjusting to the switch to legal workers, both American and legal immigrants. Legal workers would benefit economically and in the long run, might balance out any price increases.
How is farming different from the other business that claim without “immigrant labor,” they can’t survive? Construction, restaurants, meat packing and landscaping businesses all insist current immigration laws aren’t serving their needs for cheap labor, not seasonal but all year long. Never mind the fact that American workers in all of those businesses are displaced by the illegal labor. Never mind that state governments bear the burden of the cheap labor force in increased costs in education, housing, and welfare.
Cheap foreign labor also provides a profit advantage that pushes out traditional American mom and pop businesses. It happens every day, a builder stops using his most trusted American construction experts, unless it is for his own home, and calls in an illegal crew so his bid will be more competitive. A family farm is forced to sell out because they can no longer compete with huge farming operations that use illegal labor. Daily, American workers are displaced and forced into unemployment because they can’t compete with cheap foreign labor either at home or abroad.
With the GOP establishment trying to break his winning streak, right wing talk radio blasting him, and Wisconsin farmers apt to vote their bottom dollar line, Donald Trump may lose Wisconsin to Ted Cruz. Ironically, if so, it may be over an issue that has Trump leading nation wide — illegal immigration.