Dairying and Immigration in Wisconsin

The population of Wisconsin is made up of immigrants. The Applied Population Laboratory at UW-Madison has many papers, maps, and research documents on the settlement of Wisconsin and the contributions immigrants have made to Wisconsin over the years.

Wisconsin has experienced waves of immigrants from most European countries. In recent years Hmong, Cubans, and others have immigrated to Wisconsin. In the past 20 years Wisconsin has experienced a rapid influx of Hispanic/Latino immigrants.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services estimates that Wisconsin’s population was made up of 1000 Hispanics/Latinos in 1950; this excludes the number of Hispanics/Latinos that worked under the 1943 Emergency Farm Labor Program that allowed for thousands of farm workers to travel to Wisconsin annually to work in the farm crop industry. This program operated until 1964 and involved bringing workers from Mexico, Jamaica, British Honduras, and the Bahamas.

The Pew Research Center estimates 370,000 Hispanic/Latino immigrants now call Wisconsin home, and 28% of them are foreign born. It is estimated that 76,000 of the 104,000 are non-citizens and that 51% of them have been in the United States for more than 16 years. The Pew Research Center has determined that less than 8% have been in the United States for less than 5 years.

It is estimated that there are approximately 12,550 hired farm laborers in Wisconsin and approximately 4,460 are from Mexico based on research from the UW-Madison Program on Agricultural Technology Studies. It is estimated that immigrant farm laborers work an average of 57 hours per week and take off between 4 and 5 days a month.

By Bob Panzer for Wisconsin State Farmer
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