House members urge Pelosi, McCarthy to use CCC to help farmworkers
Seventy-two house members led by Rep. jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., last week wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to provide funding or direct the Agriculture Department to use Commodity Credit Corporation funding to support farmworkers in the next coronavirus aid package.
In a letter to Pelosi and McCarthy, the members noted, “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.∏
Specifically, the members urged the leaders 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.
Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein and Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook in a joint news release both praised Panetta for his leadership and said they supported the legislation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential role of farmworkers in our nation’s agricultural and food systems and the hazards they confront every day for our food security. As Congress provides the CCC with funding to support agriculture, the funding should prioritize prevention, testing and premium pay for farmworkers and their family members, and reduce their fear of what will happen if they become ill,” Goldstein said.
“We applaud Rep. Panetta and other legislators for making farmworkers a priority,” said Cook. “If Congress increases CCC funding, legislators must ensure that funds flow to states and organizations that protect and support farmworkers from COVID-19.”
“Although the CCC is not the only source of funds Congress should tap, Congress created the CCC during the Great Depression to ensure our families have a stable food supply. If farmworkers are not protected, basic staples could become scarce, and food prices could soar.”
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