On September 26th the Board of Supervisors approved the final report of the Agricultural Labor Ad-Hoc Subcommittee to address challenges facing the 7,000 agricultural farmworkers in Yolo County. I served as a member of this committee along with Supervisor Oscar Villegas. We worked with county staff to better understand the needs of farm workers, identify service gaps, and determine how the County could provide aid and resources to this vulnerable community.
Following extensive outreach with Yolo County farmworkers, farmers, academic experts, advocates and service providers, we identified the following themes:
Fear of deportation, even from those with legal status;
Under-enrollment in available medical insurance programs;
Lack of affordable housing;
Difficulty in accessing affordable food;
Limited access to transportation;
Lack of affordable childcare; and
Need for higher skills training.
While more support and resources are needed, the good thing is that the County is starting to take a proactive role in aiding its farmworkers. These County initiatives include:
In the 2017-18 adopted budget, the Board approved $84,900 to augment funds from the drought relief fund to support the Yolo Food Bank’s ability to continue the mobile food distribution service to rural sites in Yolo County.
The Yolo County Transportation District is currently applying for a grant to bring on-demand buses to rural areas to aid under-served areas in Yolo County. This service would help the farmworker communities access more services and allow children to participate in afterschool programs and activities.
On March 7th 2017 the Board adopted the ‘Yolo County is Safe and Welcoming Place for All People’ resolution which reaffirmed our County’s commitment to the safety and well-being of all our residents regardless of their immigration status.
The Yolo County Library has a U.S. Citizenship Corner at seven of their branches which provides residents information on how to obtain citizenship. Thanks to this resource, residents can find out information on how to obtain free or low-cost immigration legal assistance.
As a core element of this effort, the Board approved funding for two years for a Farm Outreach Coordinator through RISE Inc. This coordinator will provide farm workers with much needed resources including guiding them through the application process for eligible county services such as CalFresh, Medi-Cal etc. The coordinator will also help re-launch the successful annual Viva La Vida conference for farm workers to provide information about how to obtain health care, food and transportation resources.
In addition to the Farm Outreach Coordinator, County staff identified the following strategies to improve conditions for farmworkers in Yolo County:
Provide greater outreach regarding the County Medical Services Program
Explore alterations to the County’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance
Explore the provision of subsidies for County building permits and other fees related to farm worker housing projects
Consider including in the Board of Supervisors legislative platform advocacy for federal and state funding for farmworker housing (particularly single adults) and advocacy for immigration reform
Explore the establishment of a low cost career training program
For more information, click here to read the County Staff Report.
The County will also align opportunities for career advancement for farm workers. Resources such as the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) could be used to provide trainings in agricultural technology at local community colleges. This will help today’s farm workers be prepared for the environment of the future.
Farmworkers are a valuable asset to our thriving agriculture industry. I’m proud that we are taking steps to improve the well-being of our farm worker community. Click here to read the recommended strategies to aid farm workers.
As always, please email me at email@example.com to share your thoughts on this topic or any other matter.
In shared service,