Dairy Farms Look to Puerto Rico for Workers

Amidst an American worker shortage, South Dakota factory farms are looking for labor in Puerto Rico.

To alleviate the shortage of American workers willing to take jobs on their farms, dairy farmers in South Dakota are looking to import laborers from Puerto Rico. South Dakota State University Extension has recently hosted several recruiting sessions in the hopes of attracting 20 Puerto Rican workers to the state by September. According to local dairy farmer and former South Dakota secretary of agriculture Walt Bones, tapping the Puerto Rican workforce is a promising idea, as he believes American employees “don't want to work that hard.” South Dakota farms only produced 209 million pounds of milk in 2016—compared to much higher volumes in states such as California and Wisconsin. However, last year’s nationwide milk glut led to the dumping of an excess 43 billion gallons of milk into manure lagoons and fields across the country—clearly evidence that production does not need to increase in South Dakota, or other regions. Additionally, human rights violations continue to plague the animal agriculture industry, as evidenced by the current legal battle centered around human trafficking allegations by six veterinarians coerced to work on an Idaho dairy farm, with the promise of high pay and benefits, only to be subjected to manual labor, unsafe working conditions, and threats of deportation for non-compliance.

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