Organic industry backs immigration reform, covid-19 protection for farmworkers

The Organic Trade Association on Tuesday called for congressional action on two tracks to help farmworkers now and in the future. The group seeks passage of an immigration reform law that would give undocumented farmworkers a pathway to legal status, and it called for safeguarding the well-being of these workers by providing protective equipment against the coronavirus.

The Democratic-controlled House passed the ag labor reform bill last December but the Republican-run Senate has not acted on it.

“Agricultural workers are essential in keeping the food supply chain full and operating efficiently, and they should be recognized for the incredible challenges they’re dealing with,” said OTA chief executive Laura Batcha on Tuesday. “Our board recognizes the need for legislative action to safeguard farmworkers in normal times, and the extra measures that now need to be taken due to the increased vulnerability of these critical workers during this global health crisis.”

Several bills are pending in Congress to help businesses, including farmers, protect employees through steps such as grants and loans to buy protective equipment and update facilities with shields and physical distancing between workers.