The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being encouraged to focus on agricultural worker safety moving forward. A group of more than 70 lawmakers is urging USDA to focus on safety measures as the department lays out spending priorities. The bipartisan group sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue calling on the department to fulfill its commitments as part of the latest COVID relief package.
“Specifically, we ask that you prioritize funds for measures that will protect our agricultural communities and workers against the coronavirus disease from funds provided by H.R 133 or from other available sources,” the letter states. “As the virus continues to threaten the resiliency of our food supply chains, it has never been more critical to ensure the well-being of our agricultural producers and workforce.”
H.R.133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, directs USDA to spend at least $1.5 billion on two specific areas of concern. The funding is to be spent on the purchase and distribution of agricultural products. USDA is also instructed to use that funding for the provision of grants and loans to increase agricultural worker safety related to COVID-19. USDA recently announced a fifth round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, with plans to spend $1.5 billion on the effort. As of yet, USDA has not made any plans to use funding from the latest COVID relief package to address agricultural worker safety.
“Now that this bill has been signed into law, and as the pandemic continues to ravage agricultural communities across the nation, we look to USDA to act quickly to support our agricultural communities and the workforce,” the letter states. “We ask that USDA also work across all relevant Federal agencies to utilize H.R. 133 and any other available means to ensure agricultural workers have the protections they need to continue their essential work.”