04 August 1999
US grants $20m aid for farmworkers

by FWi staff

WASHINGTON has announced $20 million in grants to provide emergency services to low-income migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the US.

Dan Glickman, US agriculture secretary, said the grants would be made available in areas experiencing a local emergency or a state or national disaster.

Parts of the US are suffering from drought while others are suffering from frost. The state of West Virginia was designated a disaster area on Monday (2 August).

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will now grant low interest loans and other assistance to farmers in that state and the surrounding areas.

“USDA has a long history of responding to farm owners who have seen their crops and farmland suffer from natural disasters and local emergencies,” said Mr Glickman.

The funding would bring relief to the many migrant and seasonal farmworkers who have lost their sole source of income because there are few or no crops left to harvest.

In California, between 20,000 and 30,000 farmworkers lost their jobs when freezing temperatures devastated the citrus industry.

Workers who had previously picked crops, processed produce or shipped commodities felt the negative effects of the disaster.

The USDA grants will benefit not only the farmworkers, but also their families and surrounding communities.

Grants will be given to tax-exempt public agencies or private organisations which have experience in providing emergency services to low-income farmworkers.

The type of service could include payment assistance for rent or mortgage, utility bills, child care, transportation, school supplies, and food.

The money could also be used to improve accommodation for farmworkers and their families as well as health clinics and child care facilities.

Jill Long Thompson, USDA under-secretary for rural development, said farmworkers were among the poorest workers in the US.

They had been hit hard by the depressed farm sector, she added.

“It is sad to see that the American workers who ensure food is available to all of America are finding it difficult to feed or house their own families.”

The USDA will now accept proposals for grant assistance from interested state and local non-profit community development organisations.