Statement: HEAL Recognizes Draft of Senate Farm Bill For Historic Inclusion of Food & Farm Workers

HEAL Food Alliance Recognizes The Draft of Senate Farm Bill For Its Historic Inclusion of Food and Farm Workers and Its Effort to Provide Safe and Dignified Working Conditions

May 3, 2024 – After much delay, on Wednesday the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released a proposal for the 2024 Farm Bill — the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act. 

Since its inception, the farm bill has excluded working people who are not farm owners, yet our food and agriculture system largely depends on the 21.5 million food system workers who make up the biggest sector of our economy. The HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, and Labor) Food Alliance applauds Senator Stabenow’s draft framework bill which, for the first time ever, proposes provisions for food system workers. 

In particular, the proposal aims to enact protections for our nation’s farmworkers, who face dangerous working conditions and exploitative practices while at work. The proposed language includes, among other initiatives for farm workers at the USDA, the establishment of the Farmworker and Food System Worker Advisory Committee to provide recommendations to improve worker safety, and the expansion of the Farmworker Coordinator role to include other food system workers. The proposal also includes a new grant program for grocery and food system workers for disaster relief.

However, the HEAL Food Alliance continues to urge Congress to include language from the Protecting American Meatpacking Workers Act (PAMWA) in the farm bill to ensure safe and dignified working conditions for all people who work in our food system. Recent polling shows that 80% of people nationally expressed support for more and better workplace protections for essential workers in the farming and food industries. That support holds regardless of whether respondents were Republicans (83%) or Democrats (91%), rural (87%), urban (85%), or suburban (85%.) Meatpacking workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, and PAMWA includes important provisions that would modernize health and safety standards in meatpacking plants.

We also urge Congress to include more specific provisions to protect farmworkers, who are risking their health and safety to feed the rest of us, from the burdens of the climate crisis. Many farmworkers are forced to work in extreme weather conditions such as heat stress, wildfire smoke, hurricanes, and more, often without warning, and without any relief when disaster strikes. The 2024 farm bill must provide protections and disaster relief to these working people. 

HEAL was encouraged to see that the 2024 Senate farm bill draft safeguards commitments to reduce hunger with continued commitment to nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP, as well as an expansion of local and regional food systems like Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) which helps improve the accessibility of food to vulnerable communities. We are also pleased to see that the draft included efforts to include Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) as part of conservation and climate programs, and includes provisions for the protection of Inflation Reduction Act funds for conservation and climate spending.

We look forward to working with the Senate to ensure these provisions are included in a final farm bill and we urge the House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson —who on Wednesday also released his own broad proposal — to work swiftly with the Senate Agriculture Committee on a bipartisan effort that prioritizes working people, vulnerable communities, and our environment in this next farm bill.


The HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance is a national multi-sector, multi-racial coalition. HEAL is led by its member-organizations, who represent about two million rural and urban farmers, ranchers, fishers, farm and food chain workers, Indigenous groups, scientists, public health advocates, policy experts, and community organizers united in their commitment to transformed food and farm systems.