SPENCER, Iowa — Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) and Congressman Billy Long (R-MO-07) have introduced H.R 7883, the Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives to help preserve agricultural fairs across the country and offset the devastating financial losses they have experienced due to COVID-19. The Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act will provide grant funding for agricultural fairs through state departments of agriculture to keep them functioning and preserve them for the future.
The legislation provides $500 million in Agricultural Fair Rescue Grants to agricultural fairs, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The AMS will provide the grant funding to states or state departments of agriculture based on the loss of attendance those fairs have experienced in 2020.
Locally, the Clay County Fair & Events Center has been severely impacted by COVD-19. With the postponement of the 2020 Fair, the Clay County Fair Association lost 75% of its revenue to maintain the fairgrounds and prepare for next year’s Fair.
“For 103 years, the Clay County Fair Association, a private non-profit local business, has been responsible for creating, building, and maintaining ‘The World’s Greatest County Fair’,” said Fair & Events Center CEO Jeremy Parsons. “Now, in order to put on a Fair in 2021, we are going to have to make some very difficult decisions to ensure our survival.”
Besides the Fair, COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of 71 non-fair events (out of the roughly 300 events held each year at the Fair & Events Center) with an estimated total revenue loss of $128,303. “Sadly, we do not see much future improvement in those numbers as large events continue to be cancelled in this COVID world,” he continued.
Furthermore, as a 501(c)5, the Clay County Fair Association was also shut out of any funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was part of the CARES Act.
According to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE), each year the operation of agricultural fairs results in $4.67 billion for the U.S. economy and supports thousands of jobs. About 2,000 fairs are held in North America each year with the Clay County Fair ranking in the top 100 in terms of attendance.
Fairs, like so many other industries in the U.S., have suffered tremendous financial losses as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. IAFE estimates a loss of gross revenue exceeding $3.7 billion to fair organizations so far this year based upon the cancellation of facility events and their annual fair.
State and county fairs are a primary source for the promotion of U.S. agribusiness. They exhibit the equipment and animals associated with agriculture and animal husbandry, and livestock shows are prominent at many state fairs.
Fairs also encourage and develop the next generation of America’s food producers. Agricultural producers in rural America represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, and with the average age of a farmer being 57 years old, it is imperative to engage and encourage young people to pursue agricultural careers.
“The agricultural fairs across the United States serve vital community purposes. Besides the social and cultural impact, fairs provide the future leaders of this country – the 4-H and FFA members – with vital leadership skills development. Additionally, the economic impact to each community is significant. In the majority of communities, the fairgrounds serves as critical infrastructure in times of need – fire camps, hurricane and tornado shelters for humans and animals – and never more evident than now with many serving as COVID-19 testing sites, temporary hospitals, quarantine shelters, food distribution sites, and temporary polling places. We thank Congressmen Panetta and Long for introducing the Agricultural Fairs Research Act and for working to preserve America’s fairs,” said Marla Calico, President & CEO, International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE).
About the Clay County Fair & Events Center Rooted in Tradition, the Clay County Fair and Events Center is a year-round facility that annually hosts more than 300 events, including its signature event, the Clay County Fair. Known as “The World’s Greatest County Fair” since 1917, the Clay County Fair attracts more than 300,000 guests each September for nine-days of world-class entertainment, competition, food, fun, and the largest farm machinery show at any fair in the United States. Additional information can be found at claycountyfair.com.
— Clay County Fair & Events Center
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