Dairy farmer says farm labor shortage needs better solutions

A dairy farmer says farm labor is still a top concern.

Pam Selz-Pralle tells Brownfield finding help for the farm is not easy. “When you’re seeing your local grocery stores and your local restaurants, they’re closing down because they don’t have labor but they can close down for a night. Our cows still have to get milked. Our crops still need to be harvested, so labor becomes a really big issue.”

Selz-Pralle says hiring workers is hard, and keeping them long-term is even harder. “We are already low-margin areas and we can’t compete with labor that is at the manufacturing or the factories, so we need to have some support of the key industries that provide the raw products that provide food.”

Selz-Pralle says automation isn’t always the solution for the labor shortage. “When you go to robots, then you have to make sure it’s not replacing my labor because most farmers are underpaying themselves anyhow, so a robot can’t replace me. I’m not paying myself enough. You have to replace cash wages that go out of the farm.”

She says the seasonal H-2A program doesn’t help dairy farmers who need year-round help, and expanding this and other programs will likely mean high turnover and constant training as manufacturing lures workers away from the farm.

Selz-Pralle spoke to Brownfield after a farm bill roundtable meeting with Congressman Tom Tiffany in Loyal, Wisconsin Monday.

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