INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WEHT) – The Indiana Dairy Producers and the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) convened a roundtable on June 21 to discuss the current labor shortage plaguing the farming industry and what Congress can do about it.

Farmers and business leaders discussed how to convince Congress to pass legislation that protects domestic agriculture production to ensure grocery stores remain stocked and increase access to the H-2A Visa program to help curb the labor shortage.

Here’s what they had to say.

“Our livestock industry has no year-round source for workers… We want to urge Sens. Braun and Young to engage in a discussion as to how we can be part of the solution to fixing the labor issues that agriculture faces here in Indiana,” said Indiana Dairy Producers President Steve Obert.

Speakers noted that the current visa system is broken, stating a need for change as Indiana’s agriculture production relies heavily on immigrant labor.

“Immigrant labor is estimated to provide care for and milk nearly 79 percent of the U.S. milk supply,” said Obert. “It’s estimated that if we lost our immigrant workers, milk prices would double, costing the U.S. economy nearly $32 billion.

The H-2A program was created in 1986 for seasonal workers and is geared toward vegetable and fruit farms. But our livestock industry has no year-round source for workers. This has deep implications for our farms. My family milks cows down near Evansville, and this [lack of year-round workforce] has a tremendous impact on animal care and well-being…

We want to urge Sens. Braun and Young to engage in a discussion as to how we can be part of the solution to fixing the labor issues that agriculture faces here in Indiana.”

It was also discussed how the shortage is affecting all Hoosiers, causing their groceries costs to continuously rise.

 ”Everything on your plate costs more now because every input into our costs is skyrocketing. Why? Workforce,” said Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association President and CEO Patrick Tamm. “We can focus all we want to on workforce retraining, but we don’t have enough people in the state for all the jobs.

If we don’t have a positive conversation about immigration today, we’ll continue to crush Hoosier households. And it’s no different throughout the country. We have to continue to be the place where people want to come. But our visa system is horribly broken.”

They seemed to come to the agreed conclusion in which they urge Congress to help the labor shortage with these bipartisan, common sense immigration legislation solutions to grow Indiana’s economy.