Agriculture

Bill to aid farmworkers jilted by drought effects advances in Calif. legislature

A new bill aimed at bringing relief to farmworkers affected by the drought is now one step closer to becoming law.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Sanger), aims to provide financial assistance to farmworkers struggling to afford basic necessities. Wednesday it passed in a state senate committee, four to one.

Senate Bill 1066 aims to create a program called the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project.

The project is a state-funded supplemental pay program that would give eligible farmworkers $1,000 for three years.

Farmworkers say harsh conditions caused by the lack of water have left a dent in their income.

“During this drought, we [agriculture workers] have worked less,” said Margarita Ortega, a community health worker.

“The drought caused $1.2 billion in direct costs to the agriculture industry and loss of more than 8,500 jobs,” Hurtado said.

California Farm Foundation Executive Director Hernan Hernandez said every year, the drought worsens, and this bill can help make sure farmworkers are protected.

“We need to do more to ensure there’s safe drinking quality water in the Central Valley and this is a good steppingstone, so communities have that opportunity to drink safe quality water.”

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.