Last month, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack joined a virtual roundtable discussion with farmworkers to recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month, National Farm Safety and Health Week, and highlight the important role that farmworkers play in our nation’s food security and economy.
During the meeting hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement, Secretary Vilsack reaffirmed USDA’s commitment to farmworker communities and highlighted USDA’s new Farm and Food Workers Relief grant program which invests $700 million to help farm and food workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs.
“Farmworkers are key to the success of the agriculture and food industry, which contributes $1.1 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product and represents nearly 11 percent of total U.S. employment,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Day after day during the COVID-19 pandemic these essential workers worked diligently to secure the nation’s supply chain at a time it was needed most.”
Farmworkers in attendance were selected by United Farm Workers. Representatives from Pineros y Campesinos del Noroeste and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee also joined the roundtable. The group discussed longer term solutions to help ensure safe and healthy work environment for farmworkers, including a pathway to citizenship, as well as securing a reliable workforce for the agriculture industry.
Secretary Vilsack added, “I firmly support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 and I applaud grower groups and unions for their support of this effort. This legislation will help to turn the tide on protections for farmworkers, enabling them to earn higher wages and exercise their rights under labor laws for better working conditions. Supporting farmworkers ensures America has a food supply that is abundant, safe and affordable – before, during and after pandemics.”
Learn more about USDA’s Farm and Food Worker Relief Grant Program.