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Legislation aims to bolster labor for dairy farmers

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives late last week aims to provide dairy farmers with access to a federal labor program.

The legislation, introduced by North Country Congressman Bill Owens and Vermont Representative Peter Welch, would allow dairy farmers to access the H-2A visa program.

Many agricultural sectors already use the program to hire foreign workers. Owens says allowing dairy farmers to do the same would immediately improve the labor situation in northern New York.

"Regardless of milk prices, dairy farmers struggle to find labor, which endangers their ability to run their operations," he said, adding that his bill helps protect and improve the future of the North Country dairy industry.

According to Owens, the H-2A visa program lets farmers tap the pool of foreign workers, so long as domestic labor is unavailable.

A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S Senate by Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York and Vermont's Pat Leahy.

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