Immigration raids changed life for Mich. producer

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They were put on probation and fined $2.7 million for hiring illegal immigrant workers. Now, they are shying away from Hispanic workers and requiring all job applicants to go through E-Verify.

Things haven’t been the same at Aquila Farms in Bad Axe, Mich., since the first of three immigration raids in May 2007. At various times, the farm owners were held hostage in their own backyard, jailed, had their computers seized, and charged with employing illegal aliens.

“The last time, they came in with a helicopter and tank to pick up me and my wife,” John Verhaar told a World Ag Expo seminar audience on Wednesday.

Eventually, their attorneys negotiated a plea deal and the Verhaars were placed on probation and ordered to pay a $2.7 million fine. Read more. Federal agents can come onto their farm unannounced at any time and check to see who is working there.

That is why they had to start hiring Anglos, despite the difficulty many dairies have in retaining Anglo workers once they are hired. Initially, “we had to go through 150 (job applicants) to get 20 decent people we could trust somewhat,” Verhaar says. Some of those people are still there. 

The Verhaars are also looking into robotic milking systems.

Asked what advice he has for farms that are still hiring Hispanics, Verhaar told Dairy Herd Network in the video interview above, “Know what you’re doing. Be very careful, because it could be a disaster.”

Aquila Farms milks 2,500 cows.

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Texas  |  February, 16, 2012 at 01:56 PM

As it should be. When it becomes imperative that you use illegal labor to support your business model the markeptplace is sending you a signal that your business model may be defective.

Kevin Egolf    
pennsylvania  |  February, 16, 2012 at 05:37 PM

I have no sympathy for them.They most likely built their business with the intention of hiring illegals.If that is the only way it can be done,it should not be done.I totally support the governments efforts to enforce the law,and support no change of the law to supply cheap labor to mega dairies pushing true family farms out of business.

Ellen Egolf    
pennsylvania  |  February, 16, 2012 at 05:39 PM

F-you.Milk your own cows.

MA  |  February, 17, 2012 at 04:46 AM

Ellen, I love your comment..."Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn"...

Canada  |  February, 16, 2012 at 05:48 PM

No farmers = No food. Anglos are too good for milking cows/dairy labor. All kids want to do is sit around on social websites and play video games all day. Without hispanic labor the price of food would be through the roof.

Minnesota  |  February, 16, 2012 at 05:51 PM

everyone knows the rules, but the system is broken and it needs to be fixed. Many "Anglos" with a useless college degree but $100K in student loans can't afford to work for $12.50 an hour and margins are too tight on dairies for higher wages to cash-flow... Immigration reform, anyone??

Wisconsin  |  February, 27, 2012 at 09:12 AM

I am 52 and my husband 55 and we have owned/operated our dairy for 30+ years. We have milked in those romantic little red barns and many of our friends are still milking in them. We expanded when our sons showed the desire to make farming their future. I do not know of another farmer in our age group that has encouraged their kids to get into farming-- they have all said get and education and get a life where you can have weekends free and get paid for vacations, health ins, etc, without all the worries of farming. So many of you who make comments have no clue about the workload or investment or stress of this business. Do you even buy your own pencils for work? Have you ever put in a week of days where work starts at 6:00AM and ends at 8:30 PM with two one hour breaks? 7 days straight let alone years? Do you know what your health ins really costs? Ours is $1500/ month $3000 deductible.My sisters is $1900. Try to fit that into a 60 cow budget (your can find budgets at the Wisconsin ag extension site) If you think I am stretching it stop in at one of those little red barns and ask a 50+year old farmer what he told his kids to do and ask if he would make the same choice of occupations.

MA  |  February, 17, 2012 at 04:52 AM

The tsunami of milk that washes away our small family farms can be directly attributed to the ready supply of illegals that are available as a source of labor for the expansion minded mentality that keeps our milk prices below the level needed to keep our small farms afloat...

wisconsin  |  February, 17, 2012 at 12:43 PM

99% of americans would not work on any farm for $20/hr and I am sure when you go to walmart to buy your food you always pick the most expensive options!! Good farm help gets paid good wages I don't care what nationality they are. I bet not one of you winers works nights, weekends, or holidays yet you all have a opinion about how someone else should be running their business. Have any of you actually tried to make a living on what you call a family sized farms, I bet not!!!

February, 17, 2012 at 09:14 AM

#MI Illegal immigrants are helping to kill our economy

USA  |  February, 17, 2012 at 09:15 AM

#MI Illegal Immigrants are helping to kill our economy

Andy Zagata    
Michigan  |  February, 17, 2012 at 02:36 PM

After hiring hispanics and Americans there is no doubt in my mind a good hispanic can out work 3 white men, but laws are laws, it's just too bad we can't legalize some good hispanics and quit supporting lazy white trash.

Young Dairy    
Illinois  |  February, 18, 2012 at 09:17 AM

Well said Andy.

Joe dairyman    
USA  |  March, 15, 2013 at 07:44 AM

70% of agriculture uses illegals. Those of you who think you will still have food on your table had better think again! Also who cleans your motel rooms. Who's driving your taxis. Who's cooking your food and cleaning your toilets. Who's processing your meat. Who's handling your dead animals. Who works in your city sewer systems. Who is doing all the dirty work that people with a college education wont do. Look around and see who is doing all the dirty work that the welfare recipients are not willing to do. Lets point the finger at agriculture. Send all the illegals home and create jobs! That's the funniest thing I have heard.

Joe dairyman    
USA  |  March, 16, 2013 at 07:54 AM

So do we give illegals amnesty? No they need to earn their way as Citizens. Some will continue to work those jobs others will move on to a easier way of living. And we are back to who's going to fill those jobs. We need a system that allows those willing to to work those jobs with a goal of becoming a US citizens. We don't need to open the gates to US either. And just because Lupe come to work at you're dairy don't mean his entire family needs to come to the US.

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