An innovative—and potentially life-changing—pilot program that would aid California farmworkers who are facing financial insecurity due to severe drought recently passed a state Senate committee, the bill’s author said. The Farmworker’s Drought Resilience Pilot Project would provide monthly cash payments of $1,000 to some farmworkers who are facing lost wages due to severe drought. Previous reporting has cited thousands of lost farm jobs, totaling over 8,500 positions.
“Such dramatic losses and impacts have led me to the conclusion, that this is a time for drastic action, in order to support the state’s farms and farmworkers,” said Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, the bill’s author.
RELATED STORY: Ongoing drought in California killing farm jobs and generating billions in water costs
Previously this story included a quote from the California Farmworker Foundation. It has been removed after learning that the CFF is a front group that was formed to directly oppose the work of pro-farmworker advocacy groups.
“It is estimated that one in four undocumented households are food insecure, meaning that they have limited or inconsistent access to adequate food—disturbingly, more than half of undocumented migrant and seasonal workers are food insecure,” Hurtado’s office said last month. “These same essential workers worked tirelessly to provide food during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are at risk of lay-offs during periods of drought in California.”
The Daily Kos Elections Team talks about how the MAGA civil war might be hurting the GOP in races across the country on The Downballot podcast
Under the proposed legislation, $20 million would be allocated for a fund that would then distribute $1,000 payments every month to eligible families. Civil Eats has reported this assistance as “unconditional,” hopefully meaning that families could use the aid for a variety of expenses.
The proposal notably has support from some growers, Civil Eats said. United Farm Workers (UFW) said last month that the agricultural industry had “strongly” opposed a bill that would give laborers more choices in how they can vote in their union elections. While Gov. Gavin Newsom disappointingly vetoed a version of the legislation last year, farmworkers and their advocates have continued the pressure to have him support a more recent version of it.
“According to a new report prepared for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 2021 was the second driest two-year period on record, resulting in reduced water deliveries to nearly 400,000 acres of cropland,” Daily Kos’ Rebekah Sager has previously written. “The New York Times reported that by 2040, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to lose at least 535,000 acres of agricultural production—more than one-tenth of the area’s farmland.”
Farmworkers have already faced often life-threatening obstacles in their work, including having to work outdoors during historic heat waves. Climate change is only going to worsen this, and this proposal could be vital in protecting and uplifting these essential workers as we continue to push for the investments we need to fight the climate crisis. “Nowhere else has the impact of the drought been felt greater than here in the Central Valley by our farmworkers,” said Hurtado.
She has previously introduced legislation providing greater food security to low-income immigrant families. “The bill received implementation funding in the 2021-2022 State Budget,” her office said.
“Farmworkers have suffered more than ever, as they have lost vital work opportunities and hours, and it’s my intention that SB 1066 provide much needed assistance so that they can meet their basic needs,” Hurtado continued. “We must provide this drought relief now—not just when it comes to supplemental pay, but also by ensuring they have the water they need for their homes and health, and to continue the work they do to provide safe, nutritious food for us all.”
'At no point do we stop working,' farmworkers say amid historic heat wave
Drought is impacting every aspect of life in the Western United States, and it's going to get worse
Farmworkers urge Newsom to sign pro-union bill: 'Why can’t we have the same rights?'