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Food and farmworker groups want farm bill to cover safety needs

Food and farmworkers are urging Congress to improve worker safety through the next farm bill.

Food Chain Workers Alliance co-director Suzanne Adely points to the Protect America’s Meat Processing Workers Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate, as a way to increase employee safety.

“Our worker base in the poultry and meat processing sector will often tell us that these sort of incredibly fast line speeds are leading to injuries and like very devastating injuries, or leading to deaths, leading to chronic illnesses,” she shares.

USDA is currently studying the impact of increased line speeds on worker safety with poultry processors.  Line speed waivers can be issued to plants operating under USDA’s New Poultry Inspection System which went into effect in 2014.

Adely tells Brownfield food nutrition programs are also a top priority.

“They are actually the largest workforce in the country and the most food insecure, so the administration of SNAP is a very important issue for the base of our food worker organizations,” she explains.

The alliance and allied organizations met with members of Congress last week for a panel discussion on issues.

Adely says other policy recommendations include expanding USDA’s farmworker coordinator position, creating a warning system when weather conditions are dangerous for working, and other labor improvements.

The alliance represents more than 30 worker-based organizations in the food economy including farmworkers and food processers.

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