On Monday, Reps. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, Jimmy Panetta, D-Monterey, Jim Costa, D-San Joaquin Valley, Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, Doug LaMalfa, R-Washnigton, and Fred Upton, R-Michigan, led 70 colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging it to allocate specific funding to protect essential agricultural workers as the Department works to implement agricultural provisions from H.R.133 — the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 directed the Secretary of Agriculture to use at least $1.5 billion to purchase and distribute agricultural products and to provide grants and loans to protect agricultural workers from COVID-19.
On Jan. 4, the USDA announced its plans to spend $1.5 billion in a fifth round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, but the department has not yet committed to spending additional funds on agricultural worker safety. Consistent with congressional intent, the members are now urging the USDA to implement the language from the recent COVID-19 relief bill and prioritize significant funding for measures that ensure agricultural workers have the protections they need to continue their essential work.
“My father was a farmworker, so I know the hard work that goes into putting food on the table for our families. Growers, ranchers, and vintners in my district want to protect their essential workers from the virus, but they need our help,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “Agriculture workers are at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19, which is why I worked hard to ensure they are protected in the latest COVID-19 relief package. I urge the Agriculture Secretary to move quickly to protect our workers, food supply chain, and public health from COVID-19.”
Added Rep. Panetta: “As the pandemic exploded over the past few months, farmers and farmworkers continued to show up, do their jobs, and put food on our tables. It continues to be our job in Congress to procure the necessary funding in the pandemic relief packages to help protect the health and safety of that agricultural workforce. That’s why my colleagues and I will continue to work together on a bipartisan basis, not just to secure that funding, but also to ensure that the USDA does its job and uses that funding to keep our agriculture workers safe and our food supply secure.”
— Gerry Fall