Sep 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration announces aid for farm and food workers

A farmworker harvests lettuce on a farm in Coachella, California

A farmworker harvests lettuce on a farm in Coachella, California. Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will invest $700 million in grant funding to help farmworkers, meatpacking workers and front-line grocery workers cover health and safety costs incurred due to COVID-19.

Why it matters: The program expands pandemic agriculture aid, which has until now largely benefited farm owners, to include the primarily immigrant, low-income workforce, Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: The money will be made available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program and distributed by state agencies, Tribal entities and non-profit organizations serving farmworkers and meatpacking workers, per the press release.

  • The USDA will also set aside $20 million of the funding for a least one new pilot program aimed at helping front-line grocery workers.
  • Meatpacking plants were an early source of COVID-19 outbreaks last year, causing supply chain issues.
  • The funding can be used to offset expenses such as personal protective equipment, dependent care and costs related to quarantines and COVID-19 testing, according to the press release.

What they're saying: "[W]e recognize that our farmworkers, meat packing workers, and grocery workers overcame unprecedented challenges and took on significant personal risk to ensure Americans could feed and sustain their families throughout the pandemic," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the press release.

  • “This is a reflection of the essential nature of the work they performed in the pandemic,” he added in a conference call with reporters, per Bloomberg.
  • “We now applaud the Biden-Harris Administration, Secretary Vilsack and USDA for recognizing the vital role of farm workers in the nation’s food security and economy, through this new program," Diana Tellefson Torres, Executive Director of the UFW Foundation, said in the press release.
Go deeper