Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated vulnerabilities and inequities in our food system, disproportionately harming tribal, immigrant and communities of color, farmworkers and food system workers, small and mid-scale farmers, historically underserved, tribal and beginning family farmers and ranchers, and low-income consumers, including children. Without immediate targeted relief, the stability of our food supply, and the lives and livelihoods of farmers and essential farm and food system workers are at risk, further harming already, and increasingly, precarious communities.
We, the undersigned groups, urge Congress in crafting COVID-19 relief to immediately address three critical, interconnected issues: the disproportionate suffering and exclusion of food, farm, and seafood system workers and small-scale producers from relief; a collapsing economy, and increasing food supply disruptions; and the urgent need for healthcare and economic assistance for marginalized communities, all of which profoundly affect tribal, immigrant and rural communities of color. Congress must employ a holistic approach to restore and grow resilience in the food, farm, and seafood system in an equitable and just manner for all who labor within and are sustained by it.
Essential Food, Farming and Seafood System Workers
Despite being deemed “essential,” millions of farm, fish and food workers throughout our food system have labored on the frontlines largely unseen and unprotected. Across the country, workers and their families have contracted the virus in rural and agricultural communities, which are least equipped to respond. Because they lack basic protections and adequate wages, many are forced to work and travel to work in cramped, unsafe conditions; and reside in crowded houses with no place to self-quarantine. Workers, many of whom are temporary guestworkers, immigrants and refugees, often lack healthcare access or fear accessing medical services--concerns particularly heightened among undocumented workers, who comprise about half of our country’s crop farmworker labor force and are subject to immigration enforcement. Immigration exclusions in federal relief bills have left many workers without the much-needed assistance afforded to other workers. These exclusions are especially detrimental for farmworker women and other women working in the food system who face greater job insecurity, increased child and family care-giving responsibilities, and the intensified incidence of gender-based violence during the pandemic.
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