A survey of Hispanic dairy workers in New York State CALS Impact Statement uri icon

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  • Abstract

    We conducted an interview survey of 111 Hispanic dairy farm workers on 60 New York dairy farms evenly distributed across New York State.

    Issue

    During the past decade, New York dairy farmers have found it increasingly difficult to recruit and hire individuals to fill dairy related positions. In response, beginning in the mid-1990s, the number of dairy employers hiring Hispanic workers to fill positions began to increase. Dairy employers found that Hispanic workers are often willing to work long hours for going wage rates. The Hispanic workers also come to the farm with a strong work ethic and a willingness to perform the required job duties. Since 2000, the number of Hispanic dairy workers in New York has increased substantially. This demographic shift in the workforce impacts New York dairy farm owners and managers as well as rural New York communities. The Hispanic workforce is becoming essential to the productivity and profitability of the dairy industry. While hiring Hispanic employees has filled several significant industry needs, it also creates other challenges for employers. The future success of this workforce and the dairy industry depends upon the education of business owners, managers, policy makers and community leaders regarding the immigrant population. Prior to 2004, very little formal information had been collected regarding the demographics, wage rates, perceived needs and concerns of this important segment of the agricultural workforce.

    Response

    In an effort to gather credible information on this new and emerging Hispanic workforce, support was garnered from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM), the New York State Farm Bureau, the New York State Migrant Education, and Northeast Dairy Producers Association. A $16,000 NYSDAM grant funded the survey, which was conducted by bilingual enumerators. The valuable insights gained into the dynamics of the Hispanic workforce in New York's dairy industry were provided through a survey of 111 Hispanic workers on 60 New York dairy farms evenly spread across New York. The data were collected through personal interviews with the workers. The survey was the first of its kind to gather detailed information regarding Hispanic dairy workforce demographics, job satisfaction, wages and the employees' perceived needs. Three-fourths of the surveyed workers are from Mexico and about one-fourth from Guatemala. The workers are typically young and male, with a modest amount of education. The average starting wage for the workers surveyed was $6.87 and the average current wage is $7.51. The workers indicated they preferred to work long hours, averaging 62 hours worked per week. Both employers and employees acknowledged challenges associated with language, workers' legal status and cross-cultural understanding.

    Impact

    At this point in the project, there has not been a measurable impact because the results are just now being disseminated to employers, policy makers, extension educators, and appropriate agencies. The survey results give those who work with the Hispanic dairy workforce, information that benchmarks workforce demographics, wages and job satisfaction. It is expected in the years ahead that policy makers, educators and employers will use this information as they make decisions critical to developing policies and educational programs that impact the future of Hispanic dairy workers in New York State. Survey results are likely to be used in a number of ways. Legislators and policy makers will use the data in discussions on immigration reform. Employers will use the results to be more responsive to the workplace needs of their employees. Likewise, agencies and organizations that serve immigrant workers will use the survey information to help workers adapt to the workplace and the community. Extension educators will use the survey results to guide the development of educational programs for both the Hispanic employees and their employers.

    Funding Sources

    • Federal Formula Funds - Research (e.g., Hatch, McIntire-Stennis, Animal Health)
    • State or Municipal (e.g., NYSDAM)

    Collaborators

    • New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
    • Department of Applied Economics and Management
    • Department of Animal Science, PRO-DAIRY
    • New York State Farm Bureau
    • New York State Migrant Education
    • Northeast Dairy Producers Association

    Key Personnel

    • David C. Grusenmeyer, Sr. Extension Associate, PRO-DAIRY, Cornell University
    • Thomas R Maloney, Sr. Extension Associate, Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell Univeraity,