On Point launched its 2017 National Listening Tour to go out into the country at large and get a handle on the issues driving conversations in communities big and small. We're heading to Milwaukee next week, but we also are continuing to hear your stories via our Hearken module on the #OnPointListens page. A few weeks ago, we received a fascinating pitch from a listener in Vermont— Anne Thompson.
Immigration enforcement actions are starting to negatively impact Vermont's dairy industry, which relies heavily on immigrant workers. The dairy industry is an important component of Vermont's economy and finding good workers is crucial to farmers' success. What will happen to our dairy industry and agriculture in general around the country as farmers lose workers who are almost impossible to replace with native-born Americans?
We reached out to Anne, looked into the immigration issues in Vermont and kept this story on our radar as the Trump administration's deportation force began to heat up.
When we spotted VT Digger's deep dive this week into life as a undocumented farm worker in Vermont, we gathered together a panel to discuss Anne's concerns about immigration and the Vermont dairy industry. And of course, we invited Anne to join us on air.
Anne, who runs a small construction business with her husband, told us on air that her own struggle hiring workers sparked her interest in this topic.
"I've been following the news of the possibility of deportations of the dairy industry workers," she said, "and I've been wondering how these reliable workers will be replaced, given how hard it is for us to hire."
Anne said our conversation on air confirmed her suspicions: that Vermont was not unique, and the agricultural industry all over the country could be affected by new immigration enforcement actions.
"I think that we need to take a really hard look at our labor force and understand how important the guest workers, the undocumented workers are to our labor force," Ann told us. "[We need to] really take that into consideration when we consider immigration reform."
Do you have a local story in your community or region worth a closer look? We'd love to hear it. Use our Hearken module below to clue us in.