SACRAMENTO — California is home to roughly 800,000 farmworkers who play a vital role in maintaining food supply and whose work is more critical than ever during the pandemic. Now, with the enactment of Senator Ben Hueso’s (D-San Diego) SB 721, the state will formally recognize these contributions each year on Aug. 26 as part of the newly established California Farmworker Day, according to a press release.
“Despite their continuous labor and service, farmworkers’ benefits to the state, the nation, and the globe often go unrecognized,” said Senator Hueso. “It is imperative that we choose to honor their contributions annually on August 26th now, so that we may be able to continue to erase the inequities that exist in our farmworker communities moving forward.”
It is well-documented that California is the top agricultural-producing state in the United States, bringing in more than $50 billion from agricultural products in 2019, and producing more than 13 percent of the nation’s agricultural value. The state produces more than 400 different agricultural commodities, including two-thirds of all fruits and nuts in the US, and more than a third of all vegetables. The release stated these commodities are exported globally.
Farmworkers are the essential backbone of this vital industry. The US has more than 3 million farmworkers, and California is home to the largest proportion of farmworkers in the country. Farmworkers contribute the skilled labor necessary to feed Californians daily while battling the many difficulties that come with their jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly devastating fire seasons in California have highlighted the environmental hazards farmworkers must routinely overcome to complete their essential work.
In addition to designating Aug. 26 of each year as California Farmworker Day, SB 721 also requires the governor to issue a proclamation to that effect. The legislation received unanimous bipartisan support in the Legislature and was supported by the Brawley Union High School District, City of Brawley, La Cooperativa Campesina de California, and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District. Additionally, legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta personally called in to the Senate Governmental Organization Committee hearing during the legislative process to voice her support for this legislation.