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Migrants play a big part in the dairy industry

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Posted on August 31, 2017 |
By Gaen Murphree



VERMONT  — An estimated 1,200 Latino farmworkers labor on Vermont’s dairy farms, according to University of Vermont researcher Dan Baker. He said most are undocumented.

In Baker’s most recent study, which is soon to be released, the average workweek for these farmworkers is 68 hours; the median is 70 hours. His current study did not log the length of the workweek, Baker said, but he estimates that a six-day week is most typical.

Most of these Latino farmworkers come from Mexico and are in their late teens to mid-30s. Baker’s earlier 2013 study showed that about half were married, with fewer than 20 percent living with their spouse here in Vermont.

Virtually all send earnings home to support family members; typically they send around 50 percent of their U.S. earnings. Most plan to work in the United States and then return to their country of origin, using their U.S. earnings to start a better life, according to Baker.

Based on statements by and interviews with interested parties from local dairy farmers to the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture to the governor, these workers are vital to the state’s $2.2 billion dairy industry. For more than a decade farmers have been largely unable to find local laborers willing to milk, feed, clean up after and take care of dairy cows and other barn work.

Although undocumented, these workers still pay taxes; nationwide undocumented foreign workers paid $11.74 billion in state and local taxes, according to a 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

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