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Wisconsin congressman suggests immigration reform to help dairy workforce shortage

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Right now Wisconsin is losing dairy farms, and farmers say part of the reason is that it's so hard to find help.

Some, including a Wisconsin Republican, are now pushing the federal government to make it easier for immigrant workers to work on farms.

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville) told the Janesville Gazette he wants to see immigration reform to help bring in agricultural workers.

"What I would like to see is an E-Verify program combined with reforms that match our workforce needs," he told the newspaper.

Rock County dairy farmer Doug Rebout says it's a good idea that could help the dairy industry.

"On our farm, we've made the decision that we are selling our cows," he said. "For us, part of the decision was one of our hired men quit and took another job."

Rebout says that because the workforce is so limited, looking for help became more work than it was worth for his farm.

"When the current hired man put in his resignation, that was just the little boost that we needed on our farm to say, it's time," he said.

He says the workforce shortage wasn't the only reason his family decided to sell the cows, but he says the dairy farming industry can use all the help it can get.

"I know some farmers who have gone through the whole process and think they've done everything right, and then the government has come in and taken workers away from them because of false papers," Rebout said.

Rebout says dairy farming is something that fewer and fewer people want to do, so the more people in the workforce, the easier to find workers.

"I don't see it as taking jobs from people who are already here," he said. "It would be able to fill that gap of where jobs are needed."

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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