Pingree, Leger Fernández, Kiggans, González-Colón Introduce Bipartisan Women in Agriculture Act
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), Congresswoman Jen Kiggans (R-Va.), and Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico-At-Large) introduced bipartisan legislation to support women farmers and ranchers in Maine and across the U.S. The Women in Agriculture Act would create a Women Farmers and Ranchers Liaison at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), establish a research priority for agriculture machinery and equipment designed to be used by women, and create a funding set aside for childcare facilities in rural areas. The Women in Agriculture Act recognizes that women are essential to farmlands across the country and addresses the lack of equipment designed for women farmers and ranchers and the need for childcare in rural areas.
“Maine is fortunate to have an abundant, diverse farming workforce helping to feed the nation. As a longtime farmer myself, I know the additional challenges women face to get their job done. In addition to navigating childcare obstacles, women must overcome a history of discrimination in lending opportunities,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “The Women in Agriculture Act provides resources specifically for women farmers and ranchers to level the playing field and work towards a fairer agriculture industry.”
“Our women farmers and ranchers deserve recognition and representation for working our precious lands. But we know that the work of our sisters who represent 26% of the farm workforce face disparities and often go unrecognized. Women farmers, especially non-white women farmers, are undervalued, underserved, and underpaid," said Rep. Leger Fernandez. “This is why I am introducing the Women in Agriculture Act to support a pathway for agricultural education and resources for women-led farms.”
“In Puerto Rico, our agricultural sector is disproportionally dominated by men, with approximately 11% of farmers being women. Facilitating assistance, equipment, and other tools for women farmers and ranchers will help close this gap in my district, as well as support women in the agriculture sector nationwide. The Women in Agriculture Act, which I am proud to co-lead with my colleague, Congresswoman Teresa Lager Fernández, would establish a Women Farmers and Ranchers Liaison position to focus on assisting women with accessing federal resources and assistance through USDA programs. In addition, the bill seeks to promote women in leadership roles at the agency and advance research on new technologies and equipment designated for the use of women. I am proud to support women thrive across all sectors and look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bipartisan legislation,” said Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón.
“Across Southeast Virginia and the country, women are critical to the success of the farms and ranches that feed our communities and fuel our economy,” said Congresswoman Kiggans. “As a Navy veteran, nurse practitioner, military spouse, and mother of four – I’m well aware of the challenges that accompany working full time while raising a family. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to increase support and improve childcare for women in agriculture!”
The bill is endorsed by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN).
"Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) is grateful to Congresswoman Leger Fernandez', Congresswoman Kiggan's, Congresswoman Pingree’s and Congresswoman González-Colón’s leadership in taking critical action to address ongoing structural inequalities faced by women in agriculture. In over 25 years of work as WFAN, we have seen the need for the creation of a formal USDA liaison role to promote women-led mentoring, internships and education/training. Such opportunities are always in high demand, but often underfunded. We also wholly support the bill's reinstatement of funding allocations for the development of rural daycare facilities, which are currently so few and far between that access is extremely limited, leaving the burden of childcare overwhelmingly on the shoulders of women." said Juliann Salinas, the Executive Director of WFAN.
In 2019, women accounted for 26% of the farm labor workforce, a 19% increase since 2009. However, farms operated by women earn 40% less income compared to male dominated farms and only 16% of Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) contracts are awarded to women. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report commissioned by the 2018 Farm Bill, women comprise a disproportionately small share of agricultural producers and many female farmers have reported experiencing discrimination in obtaining agricultural credit. The report also confirmed that disproportionately fewer USDA loans are made to women farmers.
Although the number of women in the agriculture industry is growing, the majority of tools are designed and manufactured the height, strength and body type of a man. Women being forced to use tools that weren’t designed for them not only disadvantages their work, but also puts them at risk for injury. And while lack of affordable, accessible child care is a problem for families across the country, women farmers and ranchers face unique challenges. Access to child care is even more scarce in rural areas, and agriculture’s seasonality makes scheduling difficult and inconsistent revenues can make regular payments difficult.