Workers, Small Farmers and Communities of Color Especially Vulnerable Unless Congress Acts

The U.S food and farm system is at serious risk unless Congress moves to provide targeted pandemic relief.

Farmworkers on Fir Island in Skagit County, Washington. (Andrew Reding / Flickr)

In a letter sent today to congressional leaders Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, a broad coalition of organizations warned of dire consequences for the American food system and the historically underserved communities that make it work, unless Congress provides immediate and targeted relief.

The letter—authored by Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Rural Coalition, and a number of allies in the food and farm system—urges Congress to provide equitable and just food and farming systems for all communities by providing pandemic relief that:

  • Assures protections for farmworkers, fish and food system workers and their communities;
  • Sustains small and mid-scale farmers, ranchers and fishers including support for farm and food programs that increase food system resilience for rural, agricultural, immigrant and low-income communities; and
  • Assures basic health, safety, economic security, education, housing and representation for rural and tribal communities.

“It is an outrage that the lion’s share of federal aid keeps flowing to the very largest farms and corporations,” said Alicia Harvie, Farm Aid’s advocacy and farmer services director.

“Right now, farm communities are digging deep, tapping into their resilience in order to continue to feed their communities. Scores of farms are now at a financial precipice, with our food system hanging in the balance. … After more than six years of low prices, volatile trade wars, historic natural disasters, and now a pandemic that is upending our world. They don’t have much left to give.”

The entire U.S. food and farm system in 2017 contributed $1.053 trillion or 5.4 percent to the US economy, and 22 percent of jobs—making up 11 percent of the U.S. workforce that year.

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

“This package must include support for the essential workers, including farm and food chain workers—regardless of immigration status,” said Rural Coalition chairperson John Zippert.

“The fragility of our highly consolidated food system has become very clear during the crisis of COVID-19. We see a market that lacks the resiliency to shift food supply lines, but also a food system that does not provide (and in most cases never has provided) fair wages or adequate safety protection to workers,” added Jim Goodman, board president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “While farmers have worked below their cost of production for decades, with disrupted marketing channels, they face lost markets and even lower prices for livestock and specialty crops.”

Take Action!

Below are the action items for each day of the week.

  • Monday, August 31: Send-off pandemic response letter and press Release: Share the pandemic response letter with your members of Congress and on your social media accounts with the hashtag #ProtectOurCommunities. See the full list and letter here.
  • Tuesday, September 1: Congressional outreach: Call and/or email your representative and two senators and urge them to take immediate action for the farm and food systems and rural and immigrant communities.
  • Wednesday, September 2: Storytelling (Share your stories): Tell Congress how the lack of pandemic response has impacted your farm, workplace, communities, and/or lives by sharing your story on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter using #ProtectOurCommunities.
  • Thursday, September 3 (1- 3 p.m. ET): Tweetstorm: Participate in the tweetstorm directly calling upon Congress to immediately support the urgent needs of our communities during this pandemic.
  • Friday, September 4: Recap of the Week of Action: Those looking to get involved can write an op-ep any day throughout the week and share on social media on Friday with the hashtag #ProtectOurCommunities. 


The team is a collection of Ms. print and digital editors and writers.