Several dairy issues coming up in Washington

Congress returns to Washington this week and several issues regarding dairy are in the mix. The so-called “Gang of Eight” senators says they will have an immigration reform plan ready by the end of the week. Reports have the bill containing a 13-year path to citizenship for current undocumented workers which would have them pay a fine, pay back taxes and pass a background check. There apparently is a dispute over the number of farm worker visas which would be allowed and what their pay should be.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressmen Bill Owens of New York and Peter Welch of Vermont say they are going to introduce a bill to create a guest worker program which would allow immigrant laborers to work on a dairy farm for up to three years with a three-year extension possible. Dairy producers contend any program which doesn’t allow year-around employment is impractical for their operations.

Also, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Susan Collins of Maine are going to introduce a bill this week which would require the USDA to conduct hearings on restructuring the Federal Milk Market Order system. Among the reforms to be considered the possibility of going from a four-class system to two classes.

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