U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has issued a plan to boost Wisconsin's flagging dairy industry that highlights his stances on two highly charged issues: immigration policy and global trade.
The plan calls for opening international markets to Wisconsin dairy products and overhauling the U.S. immigration system. It also calls for boosting dairy research, streamlining federal dairy programs and encouraging more young people to become dairy farmers.
Kind, D-La Crosse, represents Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District in the state's western and central regions, where the dairy industry is an economic pillar. A release from his office announcing the plan says it comes in response to problems plaguing the industry, including low milk prices and rising input costs.
The 10-term Kind is a longstanding supporter of creating a path to legal status for those living in the U.S. illegally. That position is shared by most of Kind's fellow Democrats but not by all Republicans, some of whom -- such as the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump -- have made their fierce opposition to it a signature issue.
An estimate provided by Kind's office said more than 40 percent of Wisconsin dairy labor is provided by immigrants. It does not say what share of those immigrants are living in the U.S. illegally.
"The loss of immigrant labor would have a devastating impact on the industry, creating job loss beyond the dairy farm that would harm local communities," a summary of Kind's plan reads.
Broadening global trade for Wisconsin dairy farmers also is part of Kind's plan. It says "the United States needs to be working to open new markets for our dairy farmers to sell their products."
Kind has been a staunch supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a proposed global trade deal between the U.S. and other Pacific Rim nations. Although it was crafted by President Barack Obama's administration, the partnership is deeply contentious among Democrats. Kind's support for the measure is being touted by his Democratic opponent in the Aug. 9 primary election.
Kind spokeswoman Amanda Sherman, in a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal, noted the plan does not specifically reference TPP.
"We're generally referring to a number of different ways we could expand access to more markets, including reducing barriers like the Indian dairy import ban and Canadian pricing changes," Sherman wrote.
The summary notes that, while many federal programs exist to aid dairy farmers,"they frequently do not reach the right audience and are inefficient." It calls for expanding loan programs for small farmers, increasing access to nutrient and energy management programs and reducing fees and other "bureaucratic excesses" connected with the programs.