Congressmen Panetta, Long Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Preserve Agricultural Fairs

July 30, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON DC – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) and Congressman Billy Long (R-MO-07) introduced legislation to help preserve agricultural fairs across the country and offset the devastating financial losses they have experienced due to COVID-19.  The Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act will provide grant funding for agricultural fairs through state departments of agriculture to keep them functioning and preserve them for the future.

The legislation provides $500 million in Agricultural Fair Rescue Grants to agricultural fairs, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  The AMS will provide the grant funding to states or state departments of agriculture based on the loss of attendance those fairs have experienced in 2020.

“County and local fairs are very important to agriculture and our communities all across our country.  Fairs provide our producers with the opportunity to market their crops and livestock, and foster the next generation of farmers.  They also are an economic engine and a gathering place for us to highlight and celebrate our communities.  Like many institutions, fairs have been impacted by COVID-19, and we must provide them assistance if we are going to preserve these fairs for the future,” said Congressman Panetta. 

“It is rare indeed if a person doesn’t have fond childhood memories of their county and state fairs. Fairs play a vital role in U.S. agribusiness by supporting thousands of jobs and giving farmers a way to promote their products. Our fairs have suffered very substantial, if not devastating, losses due to COVID-19. I am proud to work with my colleague and buddy, Congressman Jimmy Panetta, to introduce legislation that offers critical and strategic relief to a vulnerable industry in dire need or our assistance," said Congressman Long.

“The Monterey County Fair is one of 76 Fairgrounds in California serving more than 35 million Californians that visited fairgrounds last year.  Fairgrounds are often the heartbeat of their community generating over $40 million in non-profit and community benefits, and promoting a quality of life serving as gathering spots, recreation facilities, and learning centers.  Our local Fair promotes the Bounty of our County annually in its internationally award winning Agriculture Building while educating over 4,000 children about local agriculture. The Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act is imperative to the survival of our Fairgrounds and all of its valuable programs,” said Kelly Violini, CEO, Monterey County Fair & Event Center.

Fairgrounds are critical to their communities.  They provide an affordable place to celebrate life events, learn about agriculture, food and fiber,  feel the joy of a thrilling ride and find safety during a disaster.  We are very grateful for your consideration of support to Fairgrounds in California and across the country.  Providing grant funds through this legislation will allow Fairgrounds to survive the devastating effects of Covid 19 by keeping people employed and facilities maintained and safe while we remain open to support our communities’ needs.  Thank you to Congressman Panetta and colleagues for hearing our concerns and working to support so many in our Fair Family,” said Dara Tobias, CEO/Fair Manager, San Benito County Fair.

“Fairgrounds across the United States provide important community hubs for agricultural education, emergency support services, community charitable fundraising, and many different forms of entertainment ranging from local talent shows to major regional concerts.  Most Fairgrounds depend on self generated revenues to maintain safe operations that serve their communities.  Covid 19 operational reductions or outright shutdowns have created financial stresses that have most fairgrounds fighting to survive.  The Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act will provide financial support to keep these great community assets available to serve,” said David Kegebin, Manager, Santa Cruz County Fair.

“The Western Fairs Association, the California Fairs Alliance, and our Service Member partners are in strong support of Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s efforts to assist the Fair Industry during this time of National Emergency with the Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act.  Fairgrounds are an essential part of the infrastructure necessary for state and local communities to effectively respond in natural disasters and emergencies.  More importantly, fairgrounds are often the heartbeat of their communities, generating multi-millions of dollars in non-profit and community benefits, promoting agriculture and a quality of life serving as gathering spots, recreation facilities and learning centers.  Now is the time to provide emergency funding and preserve the legacy of our nation’s Fairgrounds for future generations to come,” said Sarah Cummings, President & CEO, Western Fairs Association/California Fairs Alliance.

“The agricultural fairs across the United States serve vital community purposes. Besides the social and cultural impact, fairs provide the future leaders of this country – the 4-H and FFA members – with vital leadership skills development. Additionally, the economic impact to each community is significant.  In the majority of communities the fairgrounds serves as critical infrastructure in times of need – fire camps, hurricane and tornado shelters for humans and animals – and never more evidence than now with many serving as COVID-19 testing sites, temporary hospitals, quarantine shelter, food distribution sites, and temporary polling places.  We thank Congressmen Panetta and Long for introduced the Agricultural Fairs Research Act and for working to preserve our America’s fairs,” said Marla Calico, President & CEO, International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE).

“Agricultural and community fairs have been a foundational gathering for our rural communities for over 250 years. State and local fairs provide agriculturists of all ages the ability to increase the general public’s awareness of local agriculture. The global pandemic has caused fair cancellations around country in unprecedented numbers. As a result of these cancellations, fairs across the country are facing dire financial hardships. This is why NASDA supports the Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act to ensure fairs receive the necessary resources to persevere and keep our rural communities strong,” said Dr. Barb Glenn, CEO, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Last week, Congressman Panetta and Congressman Long led their colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter urging House leadership to include strong support for our state and county agricultural fairs in the next COVID-19 relief package.