Letter to the Hon. Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture - Newhouse Leads Call to Protect Agricultural Workers
Dear Secretary Perdue:
As you work to continue implementing the agriculture-related provisions in H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, we ask that you quickly commit to allocating funding to protect our nation's essential agricultural workers. 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.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline agricultural workers have labored every day to put food on America's dinner table and maintain a secure, stable food supply. At the same time, due to their living conditions and the nature of their work, many of these workers and their family members have been disproportionately impacted by the virus and remain uniquely susceptible to COVID-19. 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 directs the Secretary of Agriculture to use at least $1.5 billion for two main purposes: to purchase and distribute agricultural products and to provide grants and loans to agricultural employers or other organizations for the purpose of protecting workers from COVID-19. On January 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its plans to implement the first component of this language through $1.5 billion in a fifth round of the Farmers to Families Food Box program.
Consistent with congressional intent, we now urge USDA to commit to swiftly implement the second component of this language and prioritize significant funding for efforts to support agricultural worker safety.
Over the past several months, Members of Congress worked in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to secure language in H.R. 133 that explicitly directs USDA to fund measures that protect agricultural workers from COVID-19. 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. 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. We stand ready to work with you throughout this process.