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Drumgoon Dairy in Hamlin County Needed Immigrant Labor from the Start

Kristi Noem’s kin are assuaging their consciences over breaking their dad’s principles and selling their land for a big factory dairy in part by swallowing Riverview Dairy’s suggestion that it will hire local labor to milk and manage its 12,500 cows. We all know that South Dakota’s CAFOs have to rely on immigrant labor to fill all those grueling jobs for which there are too few willing local workers. But Noem and her brother should know this, too. Their current dairy neighbors, Rodney and Dorothy Elliott, who were recruited by Joop Bollen himself to come to America on EB-5 visas and start Drumgoon Dairy just five miles south of Kristi and Bryon’s house on Highway 81 back in 2006, have never been able to find a local workforce and have employed almost no one but Hispanic immigrants.

That’s what the Elliots told Congress in 2007 when they testified against increased enforcement actions against employers of illegal immigrants and for issuing more temporary work visas:

Dear Committee Members:

We are dairy farmers who moved to Lake Norden, SD in February 2006  from Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. South Dakota has been recruiting dairy farmers from the United Kingdom, Ireland & Europe for a couple of years now and we decided to emigrate here in 2005 but took 6 months to complete U.S. Immigration through London (a much shorter process than any I have heard about here in the USA). We have invested millions of dollars in a brand new 1,400 cow dairy here in Hamlin County and have been milking since December 2006.

I am writing to urge you to take action on an issue I am very concerned about and that is essential to the smooth operation of my farm—immigrant labor. We currently employ 22 people, 15 of whom are Milkers and stall management operators. It is extremely difficult to find local workers willing to do the hard work required to operate a successful dairy farm. As a result, significant numbers of dairy farms of all sizes across this country rely on immigrant labor to help efficiently run their operations. I have tried to employ as many local people as possible but 8 hour milking shifts are not popular and because we milk three times a day we need three shifts of four staff to cover a 24/7 operation. Currently all our Milkers are Hispanics with Permanent Resident cards and Social Security Numbers.

The announcement by the Department of Homeland Security regarding increased enforcement actions is increasing the level of frustration and concern that I and my fellow dairy farmers feel at the government’s inability to tackle this important issue in a reasonable way. Many long-standing employees that dairy farmers have employed in good faith may well have to be let go in light of these efforts. When taking on new staff they must have two forms of identification and we keep a copy of these forms, however I do not feel that I have any special knowledge or skills that allow me to screen employee’s employment status. We are just so grateful to have people looking for work. We need a comprehensive solution to the challenge of immigration—not a one-sided attack focused solely on punitive enforcement policies.

That is why I strongly urge you to actively support the passage of the AgJOBS legislation. AgJOBS provides for a badly-needed temporary worker program for agriculture and an orderly transition that encourages experienced farm workers to remain working in agriculture for a period of years. Equally important for dairy farmers, such as me, it also includes a provision addressing the unique needs of dairy farmers for a stable workforce.

Please work with your fellow Members of Congress to enact AgJOBS without further delay. This carefully crafted compromise approach has been out there for some time now—it’s well past time for Congress to put it into law!

Rodney and Dorothy Elliott,
Managing Partners,
Drumgoon Dairy LP [testimony to U.S. House Agriculture Committee, 2007.10.04]

The Elliotts have since bolstered their immigrant workforce with robots. But neither the Noem kids nor many if any of their Hamlin County friends have flocked to Drumgoon to make their living milking cows and unplugging the manure lagoon culvert.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring workers from elsewhere to make up for the shortage of local workers. Along with automation, it’s the logical market response for dairy operators like the Elliotts. But their example, just down the road from the Noems’ house, should make clear to the land sellers and the rest of Hamlin County that Riverview’s stated preference to hire local workers is not realistic.


  1. Mark B 2023-10-13

    I love it! Noem’s Legacy:

    Send troops to Mexican Border to stop Immigrants and Cartel Drugs and then almost as if a movie plot, has a Jesus Trust company in her State Trust industry get busted for enabling Cartel Drug Money to be Laundered in her state, then sails into Sunset giving State Handouts so her family can have Corporate Farm on her precious land and be run by illegal immigrants.

    U N B E L I E V A B L E if it wasnt ‘Just the American Way’, certainly the way of the America she wants us all to glorify.

    I guess that gets added to plot, erase History that teaches what she is doing is dishonorable.

    Only in a Small Town

    Oversee SD Trust Industry that gets

  2. Mark B 2023-10-13

    Forgot to clean up bottom of last post, sorry Grudz, the enforcer of blog tightness.

    Really though, add in her Big Lew problems and she must have given up on electability and is in full on cash grab mode. Fox News, NRA, or some MAGA appointment is all thats left.

  3. Mark B 2023-10-13

    Come to think of it, cant so much of this country’s problems be summed up by white people’s unwillingness to share profit with Labor?

  4. V 2023-10-13

    Yes, Mark B, follow the money. I worked in a factory that was a microcosm of the caste system we have in this country. Whites at the top of the pay scale with the least amount of manual labor, blacks with mediocre jobs, and Mexicans working the hardest and dirtiest jobs with the least amount of pay. And to top it off, men’s and women’s jobs were similar within their color group, however women were separated from the men because we “caused a distraction” and we were paid much less.

    Yes, it was 1982 when the Lifetime Foam mattress factory moved from southern California to South Carolina after we overwhelmingly voted to become unionized. Jobs were not plentiful then and most of us were shocked they pulled up stakes so quickly.

  5. jkl 2023-10-13

    Toured an automated dairy near Winfred a couple years ago. It had robots feeding feeding hay to the cows and feeder milk was custom mixed for each calf. An automated system of cameras and vacuum tubes were used to find and attach to the teat for milking. All the animals were rf chipped and all associated costs and profits were kept on each animal. I can’t remember if waste removal was automated or not.

  6. Mark B 2023-10-13

    JKL.. your point?

  7. e platypus onion 2023-10-13

    I am curious about the make up of the construction crews building these operations and I bet they are neither all local or all white.

    Chances are the removal of waste is done robotically, as well.

  8. Mark B 2023-10-13

    Seems to further my point.. the only thing for white capitalists better than having to enslave or exploit labor is to have no labor.

    JKL, You will LOVE what happens next in that scenario.. UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME.

  9. jkl 2023-10-13

    Sorry, I thought the point was pretty clear. Automation reduces the need for local and immigrant labor.

  10. jkl 2023-10-13

    e p o, the operation was Hutterite in nature. I would not be surprised if they were significantly involved to some degree. The technical aspects were likely the vendor/manufacturer crews.

  11. jkl 2023-10-13

    Mark, do you really believe reducing the labor force through automation is bad? Would you like to get rid of the tractor and combine and replace with manual labor? I suspect you rely on automation everyday and would not want to give up the benefits it has provided to you.

  12. Nick Nemec 2023-10-13

    Schrödinger’s Immigrant is Kristi Noem’s conundrum, simultaneously stealing our jobs while being too lazy to work.

  13. P. Aitch 2023-10-13

    If pressed to define “local labor”, it works like this. If a worker spends a night near the milking barn, for which they have a job, that worker is then “local”. He or she lives there and when you live near your job then you’re “local”. *They teach you that stuff at Hillsdale, huh Ian?

  14. bearcreekbat 2023-10-13

    I agree with much of Mark B’s comments, but protest the use of the term “illegal immigrant.” No immigrant or other person is “illegal.” An immigrant, like every non-immigrant may have failed to comply with some administrative rule or have committed a misdemeanor by the failure to obtain “papers” but that does not make the immigrant an “illegal” any more than a non-immigrant’s failure to comply with an administrative of commission of siome misdemeanor (e.g. think of Kristi Noem’s repeated traffic crimes) make that person an “illegal non-immigrant, illegal citizen, illegal resdent, illegal Christain, illegal caucasion, et al ad nauseum.” The term “illegal immigrant” is nothing more than a modern alternative to spic, wetback, beaner, or a myriad of other terms that implicitly denigrate and harm those who are called the name.

    I recognize that many people might use the term without meaning harm and perhaps don’t even think about how such slur labels might hurt or harm people, yet thoughtlessly using this slur can hurt individuals, children and families. In addition the term is quite inaccurate as a description of a person’s legal status. Of course, such a term is favored by conservatives that seek to demonize people migrating across the southern border. As I have repeatedly stated on DFP in the past, unless the speaker/writer seeks to demonize and harm immigrants, using this term should be avoided. See e.g.

  15. bearcreekbat 2023-10-13

    comply with administrative rule or commission of some misdeanor

    Sorry about that

  16. P. Aitch 2023-10-13

    To my worthy AI Assistant: “What psychological satisfaction do conservatives that seek to demonize people migrating across the southern border receive from labeling those migrants as “illegal aliens”?
    BCB has been calling out the group here that “needs” to bolster their personal self esteem and personal self image by demeaning other’s this way for years. No change in their behavior.,
    Anyone curious about why they need this?

  17. cibvet 2023-10-13

    Anyone curious about why they need this? Because it gives them a warm fuzzy feeling, like peeing down their leg.

  18. P. Aitch 2023-10-13


  19. O 2023-10-13

    jkl, with a population of over 8,000,000,000, we had better figure out how to keep folks busy. Automation might be the answer to increase efficiency and profitability for the owner class, but it has an undeniable adverse effect on allowing the working class to monetize their work, and as capitalism expands, not working means not eating or having a place to sleep in more and more places. I think I can say without too much controversy that automation made the rust belt and fostered in a Trump presidency. Automation proponents have to better acknowledging the other shoe that drops; they must figure out what to do with all these people no longer working. Again, as long as greed-based capitalism is the rule, the destroyed people left behind are not a concern.

  20. Mark B 2023-10-13

    O, agreed. JKL, certainly a fan of automation, I put white collar excel jockeys out of work every day as a data analytics engineer.

    Doesnt mean I like it. Automation surely on its way, the rush to end Democracy is the only way to avoid universal basic income or other socialistic systems to sustain our future laborless society.

  21. P. Aitch 2023-10-13

    Denver experimented with giving people $1,000 a month. It reduced homelessness and increased full-time employment, a study found.
    About 800 homeless Denver residents have been getting monthly payments ranging from $50 to $1,000.
    They reported fewer nights spent sleeping on the street.
    “Many participants reported that they have used the money to pay off debt, repair their car, secure housing, and enroll in a course,” he said. “These are all paths that could eventually lead participants out of poverty and allow them to be less dependent on social support programs.”

  22. e platypus onion 2023-10-13

    bcb, glad to have you back. I have missed your gentle voice of reason.

  23. bearcreekbat 2023-10-13

    Thanks for such kinds words epo.

    P.A, In my experience (working with indigents and the homeless for about 25+ years) I have not yet met a single person that chooses homelessness. That Denver experient you describe confirms this experience. Most people want a reasonable oportunity to live somewhere and most want some sort of reasonable opportunity for work, and would much rather be independent than depend on either handouts or public benefits. The distribution of a sufficient amount of seed money in Denver makes a great deal of sense if we want to take steps to lessen homelessness and get people back on their feet.

  24. Todd Epp 2023-10-13

    +1 for Schrödinger’s Immigrants.

    And what, no Zitt comments today?

  25. grudznick 2023-10-13

    Schrödinger’s Immigrant is a pretty swell fellow, by most accounts. A long haired fellow, right?
    Besides Lar, his is amongst the top level of swell fellows.
    That said, until he can open the box and get us the answer, we discount his importance in this discussion.

  26. grudznick 2023-10-13

    Mr. Epp, are you the same fellow who was a “straight lawyer from Harrisburg” back in the day who quit lawyering to be a radio rock star?

    You could have run for office, sir.

  27. P. Aitch 2023-10-13

    @BCB – Besides the seed money experiment, which has been successful and extended btw, Denver is beginning construction on eight small house neighborhoods for homeless folks. It took about six months of feedback discussing from the residents near the new construction but it’s finally beginning. (It doesn’t get below zero here so construction happens all winter).
    – commitment to create 4,631 affordable units over three years accepted by state

    The City and County of Denver is proud to announce that it is now eligible to receive funding from the $300 million voter-approved Proposition 123 state initiative. Denver’s commitment to increasing its affordable housing stock above a baseline amount was recently approved by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Division of Housing (DOH).

  28. bearcreekbat 2023-10-14

    P.A. Awesome public policy!

  29. Francis Schaffer 2023-10-14

    Using a business model which creates low wage, no benefits jobs while using the tax code to create generation wealth is not economic development.

  30. Francis Schaffer 2023-10-14

    I noticed in the interview he milks 24/7 with 3 shifts of 4 people. So no days off for any of the shift people. My opinion is he needs a 4th shift so there is 1 shift off each day.

  31. Todd Epp 2023-10-14

    Grud, thanks for the compliment. I would no longer be married if I ran for office. My main jobs now are taking care of my 90 year old father and wrangling two rambunctious Standard Poodles.

  32. grudznick 2023-10-14

    Good on you, Mr. Epp. At least on the former, as we old fellows need more wrangling than most animals.
    Tell your pa “hi” from grudznick, keep rocking on the radio, young man!

  33. Mark B 2023-10-15

    One last thing on Automation of Jobs.. the big target now is on white collar jobs.. I have already been figuring out how to leverage AI to keep from hiring a bunch of college kids w tech degrees in my work, you can bet most other public corporations squeezing profits are doing the same.

    Universal Basic Income will ‘get real’ when the white meritocracy is cut off at the knees by AI..

  34. grudznick 2023-10-15

    Mr. B, the AI creatures will need to step up to the grudznAIck level, which is a proprietary algorithm, before your knee chopping probably happens. If it happens. If you look at the AI, it is all about the PowerPoint bullets that Mr. Lansing cuts and pastes from ChatGPT, most of which are wrong.

    Mr. Lansing uses an AI that is but Sheila 3.2, while grudznAIck is Sid 6.7.

  35. grudznick 2023-10-15

    I’d add, for a mere 1.2239874 grudzcoin, you too can gain full access to grudznAIck. Limited to off-peak hours of course, at that rate.

  36. P. Aitch 2023-10-15

    I wonder why grudz is threatened by self-learning computer software. Should we ask Lady Trobairitz?
    Worthy assistant, read everything grudz has ever posted on Dakota Free Press, psychologically analyze his current intellectual behaviors, and assess why he’s threatened by your existence and your ability to instantly reason through answers grudz isn’t able to even understand.

  37. grudznick 2023-10-15

    Lady Trobairitz (ChatGPT) says:

    grudznAIck is a far superior AI than Lady Trobairitz. But if you feed me a stream of numbers, I can do an average and a sum just as good as one of those fancy spreadsheet programs. Or, I can write you another PowerPoint bullet list for you to post.

  38. All Mammal 2023-10-15

    Hook me up with a grudzcoin info packet, would you please, Mr. G? It’s a nice time of year for machinations dabbling.

  39. grudznick 2023-10-15

    I shall do so, Ms. Mammal. I have one or two agents in your area who can help walk you through the investment process, as well, however I would want to make sure that you are fully aware of all of your options, you being a favorite of grudznick’s and all.

  40. P. Aitch 2023-10-15

    ChatGPT might be a good AI algorithm. I’m testing a different model from a different company.

  41. grudznick 2023-10-16

    You should try you some grudznAIck, Mr. Lansing. grudznAIck has passed Gong, Databricks, and Baidu in terms of investments and has surpassed Intuit and AMD in targeted functionality. I’m very

  42. P. Aitch 2023-10-16

    Investments? Basement dweller grudznick is advising me on investments? On this date in 2021 I sold all my bitcoins @ $60,876,95 each. Today they’re selling at $27,809.71 each. Happy Golden Years, shakyG.

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