From Rural Coalition and Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
While the Senate was out on recess, a broad coalition of over 160 organizations warned in a letter addressed to congressional leaders of dire consequences for the American food, farm, and fish systems and the historically underserved communities that make them work, unless Congress acts now to provide immediate pandemic relief.
“With each day Congress fails to enact inclusive COVID-19 relief legislation for communities across the country, more and more people – and disproportionately immigrant families, essential workers, and people of color – are facing hunger, homelessness, and illness,” said Thomas J. Rachko, Jr., Acting Advocacy Officer, Human Rights Watch. “Congress should take immediate action to protect the farmworkers, meat processing workers, and other essential workers who are risking their lives to feed this country.”
The letter, authored by Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Rural Coalition, and a number of allies in the food, farm, and fish systems, urges Congress to provide equitable and just food and farming systems for all communities by providing pandemic relief that:
Assures protections for farmworkers, fish and food system workers and their communities;
Sustains small and mid-scale farmers, ranchers and fishers including support for farm and food programs that increase food system resilience for rural, agricultural, immigrant and low-income communities; and
Assures basic health, safety, economic security, education, housing and representation for rural and tribal communities.
“Regardless of their immigration status, farmworkers and food-chain workers deserve immediate and equitable pandemic relief from Congress that ensures their health, safety and economic security,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Rather than continuing to bail out large corporations, Congress must act now to address systemic inequalities in rural and farmworker communities and protect the people who are risking their lives to feed this country.”
As the seasons change, farmers and farmworkers are also preparing for natural disasters atop the unprecedented pandemic, as emphasized by Jeannie Economos from the Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka. "Farmworkers have finally been recognized as "essential workers'' and it is about time we put action where our words are," Economos said. "Right now, farmworkers are risking their health and lives working through brutally high summer temperatures, threats of hurricanes, and dangerously close to furious wildfires in California all during a global pandemic - just so the rest of us can have food to eat. Our leaders must step up and pass the 'essential" protections our farmworkers need. There is no time to waste.”
The coalition amplified their message in Congressional outreach and sharing of individual pandemic related stories. They also organized a Tweetstorm to Congressional leaders to elevate their message of protecting food and farm systems and immigrant and rural communities in the next pandemic relief package.
"We will not be able to restore the health and security of our food supply system unless and until we restore the health and security of the people who make it work,” said Mily Trevino-Saucedo, Executive Director of the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas. “This includes the nearly 700,000 farmworker women who are the backbone of our agricultural industry and who struggle to care for their families with none of the federal support extended earlier to most other workers.”
“The pandemic compounds existing health care disparities, poverty, unemployment, poor schools and ecological degradation that can only be corrected with a targeted national plan to remediate the disease and its interrelated problems," noted Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert.
The coalition urges Congress to include legislation that addresses the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and lack of relief for the food, farm, and fish system with targeted relief for small and mid-size farmers, immigrant communities, and rural communities of color.
“The millions of people hardest hit by COVID-19 include small and mid-scale farmers, and farm- and other food workers and their children -- many of them Black, indigenous, or people of color living with lower incomes,” argued Dr. David Wallinga, Senior Health Officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Having a nation that’s more pandemic-resilient means extending immediate relief to these “essential” workers, while also ensuring the food system we all are paying for supports their physical and economic wellbeing in the future.”
The letter can be downloaded here.
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