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Vt., NY lawmakers want protections for dairy farmers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt., NY lawmakers want protections for dairy farmers

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

As Congress gets set to take on immigration reform, lawmakers from our region want to make sure the new laws include protections for dairy farmers.

Migrant workers are often the only people farmers can find to work low-wage dairy jobs. As many as 2,000 foreigners are believed to be employed on Vermont dairy farms. Many of them are here illegally, facing the constant threat of deportation and leaving farmers uncertain about their workforce. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, and Rep. Bill Owens, D-New York, are trying to change that. Their bill would add dairy farming to the list of businesses allowed to offer temporary visas to foreign workers.

"So you'd have a situation where the farmers knew that they could have steady workers who were going to be there for a sustained period of time to milk the cows. The workers who were there working would be totally legal and you take this program out of the shadows," Welch said.

Under the proposal, migrant workers could get three-year visas and have the option to renew for three more years.

The idea has not gained traction in the past, but the delegation is hopeful it will be included in any comprehensive immigration overhaul.

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