PHOENIX, Ariz. ― Assuming a farm bill is passed by the end of the year, the next legislative priority for the dairy industry will be immigration reform.

A top official at the National Milk Producers Federation is optimistic that reform will occur.

“I believe that by 2014 we are going to have comprehensive immigration reform,” says Jamie Castaneda, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and trade policy at NMPF. Although it may be a challenge to win over conservative Republicans, Castaneda says the Republican Party also sees immigration reform as an important element for success in the 2016 elections.

“When they’re going to do it, I can’t tell you whether it will be the first six months (of 2014) or a lame-duck session” after the November congressional elections, Castaneda said.

A worker visa program, allowing workers to stay on a dairy for upwards of six years, may be part of the reform measure.

If the focus does shift to immigration reform by the early part of 2014, Castaneda says it will be important for dairy producers to speak up and let their elected representatives know where they stand.

“Grass-roots efforts are going to be very important,” he says.

Castaneda and others talked about immigration reform at the joint annual meeting of the National Milk Producers Federation, National Dairy Board and United Dairy Industry Association this week in Phoenix.