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Slow Food Live recap: Immigrant Farm and Food Chain Workers

by Michelle DiMuzio, Slow Food USA editorial intern

Farmers and hired farmworkers are essential workers. Our food chain depends on the labor of immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. The Slow Food USA Food and Farm Policy Steering Committee convened a panel to discuss the issues that immigrant farm workers face and what that means for our food chain. Ximena Bustillo, Agriculture and Food Policy reporter and author of Morning Agriculture for POLITICO led the discussion between panelists, who included David Runsten, Policy Director of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers; María De Luna, National Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas; Mily Trevino Sauceda, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas; Michael Marsh, President and CEO, National Council Of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), and an undocumented immigrant Campesina. 

The panelists guided us through the many issues immigrant farmworkers are encountering. A fact sheet was composed to provide policy context to the discussion. Several themes emerged throughout the conversation, including a lack of local enforcement of current policies, and exploitation and abuse of farmworkers, which incorporates but is not limited to unfair or unlivable wages. Moreover, vulnerable female farmworkers suffer sexual harassment and earn less pay than their male counterparts.

The panelists emphasized that we need a just and equitable pathway to citizenship for essential, undocumented, immigrant farmworkers. The panelists put out a call to attendees to contact their Members of Congress and ask them to support policies that will provide better conditions for immigrant farmworkers, including the option for a path to citizenship. Current pending federal legislation regarding immigrant farmworkers includes:

  • The bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R.1603, sponsored by Rep. Lofgren (D-CA)) has passed in the House of Representatives and is up for consideration in the Senate. This bill would stabilize the hired farm workforce by providing a path to legal status for undocumented immigrant farmworkers, modernize the system of temporary farmworkers, and provide for fair wages and workplace conditions.
  • The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act (S.7470, sponsored by Sen. Padilla (D-CA) and H.R.1909, sponsored by Rep. Castro (D-TX)) would create a pathway to citizenship for more than five million undocumented workers deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, including farmworkers and other food chain workers, who risked their lives and the lives of their families to ensure that Americans had food on their tables and to provide other essential services.

Contact your U.S. Representative and Senators and tell them to support these important bills!

You can find them at:

Contact your Senator

Contact your Representative

To learn more about the Slow Food USA Food and Farm Policy Steering Committee initiatives, check out their web page here.