Jan 11, 2021Bipartisan House group urges USDA to provide PPE equipment for ag workers
The most recent round of USDA coronavirus aid did not include additional funds for agriculture worker safety, as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 directed.
On Jan. 11, Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-California), Jim Costa (D-California), Salud Carbajal (D-California), Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), Doug LaMalfa (R-California) and Fred Upton (R-Michigan) led 70 colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging them to allocate specific funding to protect our nation’s essential agricultural workers as they work 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, 2021, 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 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.
“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,” Panetta said through a statement. “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.”
“Central Washington’s agricultural community was hit hard by COVID-19,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Our farmers and ranchers have been working around the clock to protect their employees from this virus, but they need help. Agriculture workers are essential — to our communities, to keeping food on our tables, to ensuring a strong food supply chain throughout our country. I worked to include federal funding that will help keep these hardworking men and women safe and healthy, and now we must deliver.”
The full letter can be found here.