Congressman Panetta Leads 72 Members in Calling on House Leadership to Protect Farmworkers

May 22, 2020
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) led 72 members of Congress in calling on House leadership to provide or direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide funds to protect farmworkers and their children.

“As highlighted by this national emergency, farmworkers are essential and show up to work every day to ensure the continuity of our domestic food supply.  Due to their working and living conditions, many farmworkers and their family members are uniquely susceptible to COVID-19. Since they are at a greater risk of contracting this disease, we risk a significant impact to our food supply chains if farmworkers are not provided with adequate protections,” the members wrote.

The text of the letter can be found here or below:

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy:

As you consider legislation to address the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the domestic agriculture industry, we urge you to provide or direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide funds to protect farmworkers and their children. 

As highlighted by this national emergency, farmworkers are essential and show up to work every day to ensure the continuity of our domestic food supply.  Due to their working and living conditions, many farmworkers and their family members are uniquely susceptible to COVID-19. Since they are at a greater risk of contracting this disease, we risk a significant impact to our food supply chains if farmworkers are not provided with adequate protections.  

As Congress debates the role of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and considers other proposals to support the domestic agriculture sector during this unprecedented emergency, we ask that you provide funding or direct USDA to utilize CCC funding to support farmworkers.  Specifically, we urge you to direct USDA to provide grants to states and farmworker-serving non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to:

  • Provide free COVID-19 testing for farmworkers. In particular, grants to states and NGOs should proactively increase access to free testing to farmworkers in remote locations and at times when they are not at work.
  • Provide education and training to farmworkers. In particular, grants to states and NGOs should ensure that training and education are suitable for all farmworkers, most of whom do not speak English as their first language.
  • Provide Personal Protective Equipment to farmworkers. In particular, grants to states and NGOs should ensure that farmers have adequate protections, including masks and handwashing stations. 

In addition, we strongly support efforts to ensure that farmworkers receive adequate compensation to reflect their risks and indispensability for agriculture production in our nation.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights how valuable farmworkers are to our economy, but also how vulnerable they and their families are to the disease.  As crops across this country are being harvested, we must act quickly and swiftly to ensure that farmworkers are protected.  The USDA can provide those protections with sufficient funding for farmworkers and their families, which, ultimately, can strengthen the food security of our nation.   

Sincerely,