Area hog producer urges visa reform

MARSHALL — A Lyon County farmer is urging Congressional representatives from Minnesota to work on visa reform.

“Our and Minnesota Park farmer’s labor needs are hindered by the 2.7 percent unemployment rate in southern Minnesota, which means there just aren’t enough people in the area to fill the jobs,” Greg Boerboom told the Independent last week. He is general manager of Boerboom Ag Resources, one of the largest hog producers in Lyon County.

Greg Boerboom of rural Marshall was in Washington D.C. Sept. 12-14 for the National Legislative Action Conference for Pork Producers.

“When I was in Washington, D.C. for the conference, we were lobbying to get meaningful visa reform legislation in place to make it easier for farm employers and potential farm employees to navigate the visa system process.”

Boerbooms said his company has been fortunate most of its positions are filled with local people. However, other businesses are not so fortunate.

Boerboom said many foreign workers who come on temporary visas to work for just the summer, cannot fill the pork producers positions because it takes them all summer to go through the training they need for the high level jobs like nursery and breeding barns with artificial insemination.

“(These) high-skilled pig caretakers are needed,” Boerboom said. “But the positions take the whole summer just to train them, then they have to go back home. They need visas for extended lengths of time so they can work here. We need a larger labor force — even in towns. I see signs in Marshall that they are looking for help.”

Boerboom said that attending pork producer conferences is also a continuity situation. The more you meet with the congressmen, the more they get to know you.

“We meet with every state representative and senator, such as Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, or their aids,” Boerboom said. “We want to work with people we know. So do they. We’ve gone there enough that our congressmen, like Colin Peterson, recognize us.”

During the conference, Boerboom said, there is a large, casual reception where they serve pork. The room is filled with lobbyists, legislators and their aids. It is geared toward the pork producers getting to know the aids.

“Normally, a great number of legislators come, too, but this year, their attendance was pretty light because there was a vote going on at the same time,” Boerboom said.

He said he has been involved with the Pork Producers since before he and his wife, Paula, incorporated their farming business, calling it Boerboom Ag Resources, LLC (Limited Liability Corporation.

“We made it an LLC in about 2009,” Boerboom said. “However, we’ve done the same model since the early 1990s. We even had informal (hog-raising business) relationships in the 1980s.”

From 1996 to 2002, Boerboom was active on the national board of Pork Producers on the checkoff side, but he took off a few years to raise a family. Now that the children are grown and running the hog business, Boerboom has more free time to dedicate to the Pork Producers Association.

“Now, I’m state vice president,” Boerboom said. “The industry has to be strong for us to be strong.”