Utah farmers favor quick solution on immigration

Apr 29 2013 - 10:19am

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REYNALDO LEAL/Standard-Examiner 
Juan Lopez, 40, works at the Wayment Dairy farm in Plain City on Thursday. The Sinaloa, Mexico, native has worked at the dairy for five years and now lives in Roy.
REYNALDO LEAL/Standard-Examiner 
Dairy farm owner Scott Wayment milks cows in Plain City on Thursday.
REYNALDO LEAL/Standard-Examiner 
Juan Lopez, 40, works at the Wayment Dairy farm in Plain City on Thursday. The Sinaloa, Mexico, native has worked at the dairy for five years and now lives in Roy.
REYNALDO LEAL/Standard-Examiner 
Dairy farm owner Scott Wayment milks cows in Plain City on Thursday.

WEBER COUNTY -- As legislators scour the 844-page immigration reform bill released by the "Gang of Eight" in Washington D.C., some farmers in Utah hope the proposed piece of legislation will provide a quick solution to their workforce dilemma.

Scott Wayment and his son Trevor run a 500-cow dairy farm. Scott Wayment said his farm, which requires 250 cows to be milked two to three times a day, is having problems finding the workers it needs to keep up with dairy production.

"It's kind of a sad scenario in a way," he said, "because we haven't been able to get local people interested in working in these kinds of jobs. We don't pay the most, we pay $11 an hour, and that's more than most people make, but it's not the easiest or cleanest job in the world."

Wayment believes that granting a path to citizenship to the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States will have a positive effect on not only his farm but all agricultural businesses and their need for a dependable workforce.

"We need these hardworking guys year around," he said. "The entire dairy industry does. I think it's important that we let them come out from underneath the covers if they really want to work."

His experience with immigrants and their work ethic makes Wayment confident in his beliefs. He recalls a time -- about two years ago -- when getting immigrant workers was easier. He said they would come to his farm asking for work on a regular bases. He would ask for two forms of identification, put them through the process required by the government, and get them right to work.

"You have to like this kind of hard work," he said. "And they seemed to like it. I never had to worry about them showing up on time early in the morning like with other people."

Wayment plans to pass the farm over to his son at some point. However, he feels that it's important to pass on a business that can meet the demands of the industry. Allowing immigrants to work freely without fear of deportation or the threat of hefty fines to businesses would be the best-case scenario for him. His son agrees and shares his father's view on giving undocumented workers an opportunity to work in the U.S.

Although their workers can make above $35,000 a year, Trevor Wayment sees the necessity of getting laborers who not only want to make money, but can also hack the long hours and life associated with farming.

"We pay our workers as much as we do because we wouldn't do this kind of work for less," he said. "But our situation is tough right now. I can't remember the last time a high school kid came asking for work. If we get them (immigrants) on a program to become legal, I think more of them will want to stay and work.

"And right now we need them."

 

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