At Snake River Seed Cooperative we love our customers, the seed growers who supply the seeds for us all, and the gardeners who discover what gifts each plant can offer. Many of us grow a supply of food that only supplements our yearly food supply, buying the foods needed to stock our kitchens from large-scale providers. Some of us grow enough food to supply our households year-round. We know that practice involves a TON of planning and hard work to balance everything in our current era. All of us recognize the hard work that goes into growing good food. We want to give a shout-out to the people who grow the majority of foods most people can afford, and share some ways to support them!
Latinx Heritage Month began on September 15th. This month we would like to guide your attention to two initiatives that affect many parts of our interconnected food system. We also highlight some organizations working to support farm workers who are disproportionately Latinx.
Farmworkers shown here are working at Salinas,CA. Photo CCBY Holgerhubbs via Wikimedia
Farmworkers who immigrated from Mexico, Central, and South America worked through the heat waves and suffocating fire smoke of this past season. People working outdoors in such heat face deadly health risks, 35 times more than the general population, according to a recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. This is in addition to long-standing inequities in wages, workers rights to negotiate, safety in the workplace, and prevention of exposure to pesticides, among others. As temperatures and intense weather patterns continue we need to find ways to pull together to adapt, community-to-community.
Farmers and Farm Workers
We consider people doing the direct work on a farm to be the farmers. We also recognize the long-standing separation posed by the difference in terms like “Farmer” and “Farm Worker.” We recognize the skill and experience workers have brought to our collective food system and our survival. At the same time, we acknowledge that more needs to happen to balance those inequities. We use these terms interchangeably here, considering this dynamic.
The Debt Relief for BIPOC Farmers Initiative promoted by the HEAL Food Alliance
One measure was already well underway that would have brought some balance to our food system. When Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act in March, they included $4 billion in debt relief for farmers and ranchers of color. Section 1005 of the Act stipulates that this debt relief is critical to “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers due to decades of discrimination in USDA programs, disproportionate COVID-19 impacts, and the failure of the US government to ensure adequate funding reached farmers of color in other relief efforts.
The USDA has been trying to roll out this debt relief, but their efforts have been stalled by a series of lawsuits intended to stop the debt relief from reaching farmers of color. In June, federal judges in Wisconsin and Florida issued a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction to prevent the USDA from moving forward with the program. Lawsuits were initiated in 12 states around the country, including Minnesota. This is a huge blow to efforts to remedy the USDA’s well-documented history of discrimination against farmers of color — and will adversely impact the ability of farmers of color to continue to farm and hold on to their land.
Due to the systemic, prolonged denial of aid to farmers of color, each external challenge they face has more severe consequences. Recent challenges, like severe weather and COVID-19, affected all farmers, but programs to help them went to commodity farmers, who are mostly white. Many farmers of color were left out of early opportunities to mechanize and scale-grow non-commodity crops, which are important resources for their communities. Congress included loan forgiveness in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and this debt relief is one of the only attempts by the USDA to support these farmers in the manner that commodity farmers have enjoyed for a century.
In September, HEAL joined 62 other food and environmental organizations to call on decision makers to pass a robust reconciliation package that advances climate, economic, and equity to #BuildBackBetter. Collectively they strongly support the builds a food system resilient enough to feed us in a changing climate. In order to do that there must be a a dramatic increase in public investments in sustainable farming and farming communities — including those who have been, and continue to be, underserved by U.S. farm policy.
In late September we posted about the #FairShake for Farmers Campaign
Food growers from all backgrounds have faced incredible challenges for generations now. We are at a point in our shared history to come together, support one another and adapt to changes together. Though we are vegetable and flower seed providers, many many of us appreciate a juicy delicious burger or the comfort of chicken strips! The practice and production process of livestock is an integral part of our shared food system. “Fair Shake” brings together a broad base of organizations across various interests that are impacted by consolidation in agriculture.
Seed companies and small-scale growers are not strangers to such impacts.
The USDA has announced plans to move forward with a set of three rulemakings to update and clarify aspects of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) to address the treatment of livestock and poultry farmers by meatpackers, swine contractors, and poultry companies.
Updating the PSA regulations is another important step needed to build a more resilient food system to benefit everyone.
We are in trying times, we can adapt by coming together, community-to-community! Suppor
Learn about the Farmworkers/Farmers
You can find a collection of individual vignettes that recognize the human stories of these farmers by following the Latinx Farmworkers of Southern Idaho page on Facebook.
Latinx Farmworkers of Southern Idaho
Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance
You can also find out how to support to people working in adverse conditions through the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance. The Alliance is made up of nine non profits working to support the farm worker and immigrant community during the COVID-19 pandemic.