Last week, Congressman Henry Cuellar announced the National Farmworkers Jobs Program would receive $81,896,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, consistent with 2016 funding. He also pushed the Department of Interior to improve cooperation with state governments on worker protection standards.
Congressman Cuellar said: “I protect and support farm workers because agriculture is vital to the economy, in my district and nationwide. My parents were migrant workers when I was a child. It is a tough job, but an important one. These men and women play a critical role in our food supply and food security. They deserve safe, fair conditions, and the opportunity to pursue the full-time work that can sustain their families.”
According to Benefits.gov, “The National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) provides job training, employment assistance, and other supportive services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their dependents with the goal of helping farmworkers secure full-time employment.”
As of the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Congressman Cuellar’s district, Texas 28, had 7,794 farms covering more than 5.14 million acres. California and Texas combined account for more than one third of all farm workers in the United States, according to the Current Population Survey provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010, and most of those workers are seasonal. According to The National Agricultural Worker Survey from the U.S. Department of Labor, as of 2014 only 60 percent of crop workers were employed more than 180 days per year and 17 percent were also considered migrant workers, traveling 75 miles or more to find work. The majority are married with children. Access to full-time employment provides more stability and better lives for these families.
In addition to the funding for the National Farmworkers Jobs Program, Congressman Cuellar also added language regarding Worker Protection Standards for the U.S. Department of Interior, which protect workers from certain pesticide and chemical hazards on the job. The bill noted that Interior was behind schedule on “providing guidance, educational materials, and training resources” to the States, and should therefore extend some implementation guidelines, as well as consider including more stakeholders in the implementation process. Essentially, the language is making sure the standards that were passed previously, are actually upheld in a responsible and timely manner.
The provisions are part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2017, which passed the House of Representatives last month and which funds the federal government for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. Migrant or seasonal farm workers with low or very low income, who have authorization to work in the United States, can call 1-877-872-5627 for more information about the program. Any constituent of Congressman Cuellar who needs assistance accessing federal benefits can contact his district offices through the web form at www.cuellar.house.gov.