MONTEREY — A bipartisan group of House members are urging the United States Department of Agriculture to implement 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.
On Monday, Rep. Jimmy Panetta and five others led 70 colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the USDA urging it to allocate specific funding to protect the nation’s essential agricultural workers as they work to implement agricultural provisions from H.R. 133 — the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
According to Panetta’s office, funding from the act would help in terms of rolling out vaccines to farmworker communities. The funding could be used to set up vaccine clinics for farmworkers, but it falls under United States Department of Agriculture discretion in terms of how they define “COVID-19 mitigation.”
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 directed the agriculture secretary to use at least $1.5 billion to purchase and distribute agricultural products and to provide grants and loans to protect agriculture workers from COVID-19.
Last week, the USDA announced 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.
“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,” said Panetta in a press release. “It continues to be our job in Congress to procure the necessary funding in the pandemic relief packages to help to protect the health and safety of that agricultural workforce.”
Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, added that is the reason he and his colleagues will continue to work 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 agriculture workers safe and the food supply secure.
Panetta along with Reps. Jim Costa, Salud Carabajal, Dan Newhouse, Doug LaMalfa and Fred Upton led their colleagues in sending the bipartisan letter to the USDA urging it to implement the language from the recent COVID-19 relief bill and to prioritize the significant funding.
Contributed by local news sources