WASHINGTON, D.C. — On March 27, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, asking him to appoint a member of the agriculture community to represent the interests of America’s farmers, farmworkers, and food distributors. As the Coronavirus crisis continues, the agriculture community’s unique needs must have a voice on the Task Force.
“Agriculture is an essential industry. Period. We have to be able to keep food on the shelves during the twin crises of the Coronavirus and economic chaos,” said Rep. Harder. “We need an advocate on the Task Force who understands what our ag industry is concerned about and can make sure their needs, and consequently our country’s needs, are met.”
“We agree that a voice for farmers and ranchers needs to be heard as the COVID-19 task force continues its crucial work. It’s critical to assure that farmers, ranchers, their employees and everyone in the food distribution system maintains the resources they need to supply the nation with plentiful, safe food,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson.
Representative Harder’s office has heard concerns from the agriculture community about the availability of masks and gloves for workers as well as the availability of migrant labor. He’s also heard from consumers concerned about bare shelves at supermarkets. Having an agriculture representative on the Task Force will help to ensure all these concerns are addressed.
The text of the letter is below and an original copy is available here.
Vice President Pence,
As the Chair of the Task Force entrusted with coordinating, preventing, and containing the spread of COVID-19 (or Coronavirus), it is critical to develop a knowledgeable team that can tackle the issue as effectively as possible. Given the impacts the Coronavirus pandemic will have on our nation’s agricultural industry, including our food supply, I write to urge you to appoint to the Task Force a Task Force member focused exclusively on monitoring and mitigating the impacts of Coronavirus on farmers and developing policy solutions to those challenges.
During this time of uncertainty, it important that Americans have access to food. Along with severe concerns related to health, people in the United States are worried that the empty shelves they see if their grocery stores will persist. Appointing a Task Force member that can knowledgeably advocate on behalf of our producers, consumers, and distributors to bolster an uninterrupted supply of food and products will ensure our families have access to the food they need to survive this pandemic
To date, farmers in my District and across the country are already seeing the impacts of this virus – from losing the certainty of having a reliable and healthy workforce to ensuring they have the medical supplies they need—including Personal Protective Equipment—such as masks or gloves that ensure our farmers work in safe conditions. In California, Agriculture is already considered a critical infrastructure industry meaning it is exempt from the quarantine orders because it is deemed an essential industry needed to “strengthen and maintain secure, functioning, and resilient critical infrastructure.”
Our agriculture industry needs to be treated as an essential industry at the federal level and that is why I respectfully request that you include an Agriculture Task Force member to the Coronavirus Task Force. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to your response.
— Rep. Josh Harder’s Office
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