COVID-19 & Food
The COVID-19 pandemic has unique and wide-ranging implications for the U.S. farm and food sector that are just beginning to be understood. So far, it is painfully clear that the federal government is not allocating resources efficiently or appropriately – and that the Trump administration is doing nowhere near enough to protect at-risk communities or provide them with other needed support.
It is more apparent than ever just how essential farmworkers and other food workers are. Unsurprisingly, farmworkers and workers at slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities are falling ill in worrying numbers, though many have no sick leave, no health insurance and little access to adequate health care. Yet rather than provide hazard pay, the administration has proposed to lower their wages.
And even though most of these workers are immigrants and refugees, President Trump continues to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and enforce deportations, and is now even proposing to suspend all immigration.
Small farms and farm businesses, already struggling in a marketplace that rewards consolidation, are eligible for COVID-19 aid via the Small Business Administration and the Department of Agriculture. But numerous loopholes, special interest provisions and poorly planned rollouts are likely to enable the largest, richest corporate farm operations to rake in the majority of federal assistance – just as they have for many years.
And because Trump fired the inspector general responsible for overseeing the distribution of trillions of dollars in coronavirus stimulus payouts, there’s little to no accountability for those who game the system.
Supply chains are stretched to the breaking point. Schools that provide important meals to impoverished children remain closed. Food banks are facing unprecedented demand. But the administration has done nothing to rectify the cuts it has made over the past three years to SNAP, better known as the food stamps program, which feeds millions of families who struggle in or on the edge of poverty during normal times – not to mention during an economy-tanking pandemic.
Congress must pass emergency legislation to provide hazard pay, healthcare and other measures to support essential food workers and farm workers who are in harm’s way during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the rest of us are fed.
Bailout payments aimed at relief for farmers from the impacts of President Trump’s trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic likely pushed 2019 federal farm spending beyond subsidy caps set by an international trade agreement, potentially inviting retaliation from trading partners.Read More
Although not yet as pervasive as outbreaks at meatpacking facilities, COVID-19 is on the rise at America’s food processing facilities. EWG’s search of news stories published from March 14 to June 8 found that almost 1,200 food processing workers at 60 plants have been infected by the coronavirus.Read More
To protect farmworkers from the risks posed by COVID-19 and support food supply chains, Congress should tap funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation to ensure farmworkers are protected.Read More
This week the Department of Agriculture unveiled a pandemic relief initiative that will give farmers $16 billion in direct payments. Just like the Market Facilitation Program, or MFP, which gave $23 billion in subsidies to farmers in response to President Trump’s trade war, most of the money won’t go to small family farmers but to the largest and wealthiest farms, which need the money the least.Read More
Meat and poultry processing plants are hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks, constricting the supply chains for beef, chicken and pork – and sending their prices soaring.Read More
Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $19 billion COVID-19 farm and food relief initiative, including $16 billion in direct payments to farmers. These new payments come on top of at least $14 billion in payments made to offset the effects of the Trump administration’s trade war with China and more than $15 billion in ongoing, annual taxpayer-funded farm subsidies.Read More
WASHINGTON – Today the House passed the HEROES Act, a $3 billion coronavirus stimulus package. Here is a statement from EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber:Read More
Counties with or near meatpacking plants have almost twice the rate of known COVID-19 infections as the national average, according to a geospatial analysis by the Environmental Working Group.Read More
Depending on the season, an estimated 1 million to 2.7 million workers, mostly undocumented, toil on the nation’s farms. Without farmworkers, the American food system would collapse – and during the coronavirus pandemic, they are especially essential to ensuring that food arrives on grocery shelves.Read More
The following is the statement of Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs, on Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue’s May 5 letter on meatpacker expectations.Read More
Congress should direct the Department of Agriculture to use COVID-19 relief funds to ensure that farmworkers –not big farmers – have protections, free testing and paid sick leave.Read More
President Donald Trump signed an executive order today declaring meat-processing plants essential infrastructure and allowing the Agriculture Department to use the Defense Production Act to force them to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the growing numbers of food and farm workers sickened by the virus, according to a report by Bloomberg News.Read More
Click on the pdf above to see a joint letter from EWG, other environmental health organizations and public health institutions calling on Congress to pass vital legislation to ensure that healthy, safe and affordable food is available to all and tRead More
The Trump administration’s plan to spend billions to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on agriculture may help industrial-scale produce farms but does little to assist farmworkers threatened by COVID-19, a new EWG analysis shows.Read More
Here is a statement by Scott Faber, senior vice president for the Environmental Working Group, on the $484 billion COVID-19 bill currently under consideration by Congress:Read More
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, farmworkers are risking their lives to feed us. So why are some officials in the Trump administration and some Republicans in Congress trying to cut farmworkers’ pay?Read More
More than 20 million people grow, harvest, pack, process, transport, serve and sell our food. The food and farm industry rivals the energy and health care sectors in terms of number of jobs.Read More
During this time of the coronavirus crisis, the Environmental Working Group stands firmly in defense of food safety for all Americans. From the day EWG was founded, we have advocated for everyone to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. This message has not changed in our nearly three decades of work. We also advocate for keeping the nation’s food supply safe from microbial contamination and toxic pesticides.Read More