KEWAUNEE, Wis. (WFRV) - Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy milks 4,500 cows. The farm employees 120 workers. Over half are not U.S. citizens.
"They come up from Mexico," Owner John Pagel explained. "We have a lot of them that have been here for a long time. They are excellent workers. They're good with the cattle and very good strong family people."
Pagel said he depends on foreign workers.
"Our farm runs 24/7," he said. "So we're milking cows day and night and sometimes it's hard to find local people that want to fill those spots."
Pagel, along with hundreds of others from Wisconsin's agriculture industry, are keeping a close eye on the immigration reform debate in Washington D.C.
"It needs to have changes made so that there is assurances both by the family that came here for work and for the businesses that hires those people," said Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel. "So it is a very important issue for congress to tackle."
According to Brancel, current programs granting farm work visas in the state are seasonal, applying initially to fruit and vegetable farms. However cows need to be cared for year round.
"They're jobs aren't over after three months so they need more long term assurances for both the worker and the employer," added Brancel.
"For us," said Pagel. "We're year round so the cows get milked 365 days a year so it's important that we have a policy that will address that."
U.S. Congressman Reid Ribble said he has Wisconsin farmers on the front of his mind when it comes to the immigration debate. He's pushing for more border security and making U.S. citizenship more attainable for foreign workers.