Columbus, OH—The following is a statement from Matthew Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org in response to President Donald Trump’s latest actions regarding meatpacking workers in the United States.
The last thing American farmers need right now is for more food processing plants to shut down. But that trend won't end until Trump truly recognizes the dignity of agricultural work and gives immigrant food and farm workers the respect they deserve and the protection they need. American farmers are already on the brink. Dairy farmers are flushing their milk, corn producers are seeing closure of ethanol plants, livestock farmers are getting hit with the trade wars and coronavirus disruptions of export markets.
Now, Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda has put the entire food system at risk. The vast majority of our agricultural workforce is foreign born. You can’t protect our food supply without protecting immigrant and refugee workers—which Trump is refusing to do. If we truly recognized the dignity of agricultural work and gave immigrant food and farm workers the respect they deserve, we would have acted months ago to ensure they have the PPE and testing they need and these processing facilities would still be open.
The Trump administration refuses to acknowledge that immigrants are essential. If they did, the health and safety requirements would be mandatory, not just suggestions. But no one expects the most anti-worker Labor Secretary, Eugene Scalia, to do that. Our entire agricultural system is built on the backs of immigrant food and farmworkers. They are the definition of "essential workers". But Trump thinks they are expendable and this miscalculation is putting our entire farm economy at risk.
The mission of RuralOrganizing.org is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.