The Alpina Foods Inc. plant that just opened in Batavia, New York, to feed the nation’s growing appetite for Greek-style yogurt should have nearby dairy farmers such as Matt Lamb scrambling to expand their herds.
It isn’t — and not because cows are in short supply. Lamb says he’s reluctant to add to his family’s 5,000-cow dairy operation for fear he won’t have enough workers to milk them every day. That’s partly due, he says, to U.S. immigration laws that were designed for seasonal farm laborers instead of the year-round, seven-days-a-week ones he needs.
“There’s a true lack of warm bodies to do the work in this industry,” said the 36-year-old Lamb, walking through softly falling snow and nearly ankle-deep mud toward one of his milking parlors. “We have Americans who can do this work, but without the immigrants we won’t have enough. Businesses will fail, and prices will rise.”