Bill Would Let Arizona Dairies Access Foreign Guest Workers

By Matthew Casey
Published: Friday, December 13, 2019 - 8:22am
Updated: Friday, December 13, 2019 - 9:37am

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Danzeisen Dairy Farm
Lauren Gilger/KJZZ
Cows at Danzeisen Dairy in Laveen.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping immigration bill this week. And if the current version becomes law, it would give Arizona dairy farmers access to foreign guest workers.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would mean big changes for the H-2A program. For example, dairy farmers could hire foreign guest workers. The H-2A program is currently not available to milk producers because the visas are for temporary workers.

“Dairies are not seasonal. We are 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” said Ashley Ellixson, vice president of legal and environmental affairs at United Dairymen of Arizona, a farmer owned dairy cooperative in Tempe. “Out of all the bills that have come before us that have had something in there for dairy, this is the one that has the most potential.”

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act sailed through the House and now faces a much tougher challenge in the Senate.

Critics call the bill amnesty because undocumented farm workers could get legal status.

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