Letter to the editor: Farms and their workers need more financial support

This week, Gov. Phil Scott announced his proposal for a massive recovery package aimed at supporting businesses, organizations, and farms that have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this package is $50 million of earmarked funds for the struggling dairy industry, aimed at supporting both farmers and processors. There is no question that dairy farmers have been hit hard by the pandemic, with many farmers resorting to dumping their milk as milk prices have spiraled down after a relatively profitable 2019. It’s critical that these dairy farmers get economic support, as our state’s agricultural economy is dependent on them.
It’s also critical that farmworkers get direct relief from the state as well. In Vermont, an estimated 1,000–1,200 migrant farmworkers are supporting the dairy industry, the majority coming from Mexico. Nearly 70% of Vermont’s milk is produced on farms employing migrant farmworkers. There is little doubt that the state’s economic wellbeing depends on these workers. However, these essential workers have not benefitted from the federal stimulus programs even as their hard work keeps milk, cheese, and ice cream on the tables of Vermonters. It’s time for Vermont to step up and support these workers with economic aid equal to the federal stimulus payouts.
In states like California, we have seen recent efforts to distribute economic aid to agricultural workers who had been excluded from the federal stimulus package. While noteworthy, these efforts are not enough to bail out the essential workers who keep the nation fed. Vermont has a unique opportunity to take a stand and support the workers who are supporting our state. Federal funds are available to support the state’s actions to do right by the workers who put food on our tables. Governor Scott’s recovery package is a necessary and important start, but until we support farm owners and farmworkers both, any recovery effort will be incomplete and unjust.
Teresa Mares

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