(CNN)Building a wall on the border with Mexico and deporting all undocumented immigrants has become an applause line at Donald Trump’s rallies and the main policy idea for the GOP front-runner.
But Trump’s promise has sparked fear and frustration among farmers around the country, who, like it or not, depend on immigrant labor.
“I’m angry,” says dairy farmer Mike McMahon, who owns 700 cows in upstate New York, which is now the third-largest dairy producing state and the biggest producer of greek yogurt in the country.
“For someone like Trump or Cruz to say they are going to send them all back is short-sighted because so much of our food supply is dependent on their labor,” he said.
Trump’s campaign declined to comment for this article and Cruz’s did not respond to a request for comment. Neither has not laid out a specific proposal for farm labor.
“It’s so easy to blame these Hispanic workers for taking their jobs,” said McMahon, a Republican who admits to hiring workers with questionable documentation. But he added, “I can tell you they’re not taking jobs. They are filling holes. We need these people. I cannot get local workers to do the jobs that that these guys are doing. And every other dairy farmer will say the same thing.”
In fact, half of all workers on U.S. dairy farm workers are immigrants.
Losing those workers would nearly double the cost of milk and cost the US economy more that $32 billion, according to a report commissioned by the National Milk Producers Federation, an industry group.
Farmers say it’s a struggle to find non-immigrant labor to do the work, because the hours are long. It’s a smelly, messy job.
By Laura Dolan and Jason Carroll for CNN
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