Several lawmakers are taking actions to help provide support for state and county fairs suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation of events at fairgrounds is putting the future of many fairs in jeopardy as they struggle to generate income. Representative Josh Harder has recently introduced the Protecting Fairs During Coronavirus Act to help offer some relief to fairs.
“This bill is going to create a new emergency grant program to help offset the massive losses our fairs are experiencing,” Harder said during a virtual press event. “States can apply for aid directly through USDA and then distribute the funds to their fair membership.”
Several fair leaders also participated in the online event, providing details of how fairgrounds contribute to local communities and the state as a whole. Because of the coronavirus, Louie Brown with the California Fairs Alliance pointed out that of the 78 fairgrounds in the state, 70 have had to cancel their fair this year. There is concern that some fairs could close permanently without some kind of assistance, which would have a significant impact on local communities. “Fairs are job creators and economic engines; they support 30,000 jobs across the state of California. They generate $3.5 billion in annual economic impact,” Harder noted.
Also discussed during the event was the tremendous value that state and country fairs provide in bringing urban and rural communities together. Fairs have been attempting to continue to provide that service through virtual offerings, however online events cannot provide the comprehensive experience afforded by in-person activities. Several young farmers and ranchers also emphasized the impact that their local fair provided in their agricultural development.
Representatives Jimmy Panetta and Billy Long have also encouraged federal support for state and county fairs. In a letter addressed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the lawmakers encouraged more financial assistance for fairs be included in the next COVID-19 relief package. The letter points out the pivotal role that fairs play in promoting agribusiness and developing the next generation of food producers.