COVID-19 & Food
The COVID-19 pandemic has unique and wide-ranging implications for the U.S. farm and food sector that are still developing. But it has become painfully clear that the federal government is not allocating resources efficiently or appropriately – and that the Trump administration is doing nowhere near enough to protect at-risk communities or provide them with other needed support.
Farmworkers and other food workers are indisputably essential to the healthy functioning of our society and economy, and have continued to work throughout the pandemic to feed the rest of us. Unsurprisingly, farmworkers and workers at slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities are falling ill in worrying numbers, though many have no sick leave, no health insurance and little access to adequate health care. Yet rather than provide hazard pay, the administration has proposed to lower their wages.
And even though most of these workers are immigrants and refugees, President Trump continues to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and enforce deportations, and is now even proposing to suspend all immigration.
Small farms and farm businesses, already struggling in a marketplace that rewards consolidation, may be eligible for COVID-19 aid via the Small Business Administration and the Department of Agriculture. But numerous loopholes, special interest provisions and poorly planned rollouts are likely enabling the largest, richest corporate farm operations to rake in the majority of federal assistance – just as they have for many years.
And because Trump fired the inspector general responsible for overseeing the distribution of trillions of dollars in coronavirus stimulus payouts, there’s little to no accountability for those who game the system.
Supply chains are stretched to the breaking point. Schools that provide important meals to impoverished children remain closed. Food banks are facing unprecedented demand. But the administration has done nothing to rectify the cuts it has made over the past three years to SNAP, better known as the food stamps program, which feeds millions of families who struggle in or on the edge of poverty during normal times – not to mention during an economy-tanking pandemic.
Congress must pass emergency legislation to provide hazard pay, healthcare and other measures to support essential food workers and farm workers who are in harm’s way during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the rest of us are fed.
This page includes all of our COVID-19 food- and farm-centric work. Check out our other COVID-19-related work here.
More than 22 million American households now qualify for federal food assistance, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service – an increase of almost 3.4 million households since last year. From April 2019 through July of this year, that’s an 18 percent increase in the number of households struggling with hunger.Read More
Seven months into the Covid-19 pandemic, most states still have not issued mandatory protections for farmworkers, even as cases continue to rise, according to an updated EWG analysis of state regulationsRead More
Today the House unveiled the HEROES 2.0 Act. Here is a statement from EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott FaberRead More
The Covid-19 virus has infected more than 125,000 U.S. farmworkers, according to the latest estimates in an ongoing study by Purdue University.Read More
The devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has never been clearer.
One in five American children are struggling with hunger. Thousands of food and farm workers have contracted COVID-19 and hundreds have died. Thousands of small family farms are facing economic ruin.Read More
The following is a statement from Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, on the COVID-19 relief package released today by Senate Republicans.Read More
EWG News Roundup (8/6): Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.Read More
There’s only one word to describe Senate Republicans’ proposal to shower even more COVID-19 relief funding on the nation’s largest farmers while providing none to protect farm workers or help hungry families.Read More
The following is a statement from Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs, on the COVID-19 relief package released today by Senate Republicans.Read More
Only eight states have wide-ranging mandatory protections for farmworkers from the coronavirus, an Environmental Working Group analysis of state regulations reveals. Some states have issued recommendations for farmworker protections, but most states have issued no guidance at all.Read More
Bailout payments aimed at relief for farmers from the impacts of President Trump’s trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic likely pushed 2019 federal farm spending beyond subsidy caps set by an international trade agreement, potentially inviting retaliation from trading partners.Read More
Although not yet as pervasive as outbreaks at meatpacking facilities, COVID-19 is on the rise at America’s food processing facilities. EWG’s search of news stories published from March 14 to June 8 found that almost 1,200 food processing workers at 60 plants have been infected by the coronavirus.Read More
To protect farmworkers from the risks posed by COVID-19 and support food supply chains, Congress should tap funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation to ensure farmworkers are protected.Read More
This week the Department of Agriculture unveiled a pandemic relief initiative that will give farmers $16 billion in direct payments. Just like the Market Facilitation Program, or MFP, which gave $23 billion in subsidies to farmers in response to President Trump’s trade war, most of the money won’t go to small family farmers but to the largest and wealthiest farms, which need the money the least.Read More
Meat and poultry processing plants are hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks, constricting the supply chains for beef, chicken and pork – and sending their prices soaring.Read More
Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $19 billion COVID-19 farm and food relief initiative, including $16 billion in direct payments to farmers. These new payments come on top of at least $14 billion in payments made to offset the effects of the Trump administration’s trade war with China and more than $15 billion in ongoing, annual taxpayer-funded farm subsidies.Read More
WASHINGTON – Today the House passed the HEROES Act, a $3 billion coronavirus stimulus package. Here is a statement from EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber:Read More
Counties with or near meatpacking plants have almost twice the rate of known COVID-19 infections as the national average, according to a geospatial analysis by the Environmental Working Group.Read More
Depending on the season, an estimated 1 million to 2.7 million workers, mostly undocumented, toil on the nation’s farms. Without farmworkers, the American food system would collapse – and during the coronavirus pandemic, they are especially essential to ensuring that food arrives on grocery shelves.Read More
The following is the statement of Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs, on Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue’s May 5 letter on meatpacker expectations.Read More