Growth of the Spanish-speaking workforce in the Northeast dairy industry

J Agromedicine. 2009;14(1):58-65. doi: 10.1080/10599240802623387.


The Spanish-speaking proportion of the Northeast dairy industry workforce is believed to be increasing. This study quantifies the extent of this increase over time in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, and compares demographics between English- and Spanish-speaking workers. A total of 293 farms were followed for 21 months via telephone. The proportion of the Spanish-speaking dairy workforce was measured. Differences in demographic characteristics were assessed. The proportion of Spanish-speaking workers increased linearly for both large and small farms. The rate of increase was much greater on large farms. Linear models predicted that 53.2% of the large and 18.1% of the small farm workforce would be Spanish speaking within 5 years. Spanish-speaking workers worked significantly longer weeks than their English-speaking counterparts. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitoring cutoff for number of employees is currently 10. Consequently, the increase in the proportion of Spanish-speaking workers in dairy, who have been shown to work more hours per week, is likely to result in fewer workers per farm. This could have implications for farms currently under OSHA regulations based on having 10 or more workers, because farms with workers working longer hours per week will employ fewer workers overall. In addition, according to section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, these workers do not currently meet the migrant farmworker definition that would qualify them to receive primary health services from federally funded migrant health centers. New legislation is needed to formally qualify this growing indigent population to receive healthcare via channels that are currently available to migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Dairying* / statistics & numerical data
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Language
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • United States
  • United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Workforce