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A new push for ag fairs to be in COVID-19 relief package

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Today, Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) led their colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter urging House leadership to include strong support for state and county agricultural fairs in the next COVID-19 relief package.

“In times of emergency, fairgrounds provide areas of shelter and refuge. They can serve as temporary evacuation and medical sites for victims and livestock following disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Fair operators are often responsible for the costs of maintaining fairgrounds as critical infrastructure so they are ready when disasters strike,” the members wrote.

The members continued, “In response to the financial distress the COVID-19 crisis has placed on America’s fairs, and given the importance they play in the promotion of and development of America’s Agribusiness, it is imperative that financially stressed fairs be provided a lifeline during these difficult times.”

“County and local fairs are vitally important to agriculture on the Central Coast, providing our producers and opportunity to market their crops and livestock, and fostering the next generation of farmers. They are an economic engine, as well as a gathering place, for our communities. Like many institutions, fairs have been impacted by COVID-19, and Congress must ensure their preservation by providing assistance in the next economic relief package,” Panetta said.

“Unfortunately, many of our state and county agricultural fairs have had to cancel their annual events, crippling an already vulnerable agricultural industry. America’s fairs play a vital role in promoting agribusinesses across the U.S., which is why my colleagues are looking to introduce bipartisan legislation that will help state and county fairs as they try to recover from the extensive closures and public gathering restrictions associated with COVID-19,” Long said.

“The Monterey County Fair is not just an event showcasing community talents and youth agricultural activities, we are community resources year round. Supporting your local fairgrounds means that we will be here for generations to come!” said Kelly Violini, CEO, Monterey County Fair & Event Center.

Related: CDC updates precautions for livestock shows

“Fairgrounds across the United States provide important community hubs for agricultural education, emergency support services, community charitable fundraising, and many different forms of entertainment ranging from local talent shows to major regional concerts. Most Fairgrounds depend on self generated revenues to maintain safe operations that serve their communities. Covid-19 operational reductions or outright shutdowns have created financial stresses that have most fairgrounds fighting to survive. Providing financial support will keep these great community assets available to serve,” said David Kegebin, Manager, Santa Cruz County Fair.

“Our county population is approximately 60,000 people. In 2019 we welcomed over 48,000 people to our annual events. 22,000 attended our annual Agriculture Fair, and many more attended parties, Quinceaneras, horse shows, festivals, graduations, weddings, family reunions, and many more life celebrations. This in turn creates jobs for photographers, supply vendors, food caterers, decorators, and many more. Families and community members of all ages find an affordable place to explore, learn, rest, recreate, and celebrate at our Fairgrounds. They are the cornerstone for many communities and vital for so many needs,” said Dara Tobias, CEO/Fair Manager, San Benito County Fair, California.

“Less than one-third of the states provide any type of funding support of county fairs. Even those states providing some funds will now be faced with difficult decisions to sustain that funding when state revenues have been so dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Without supplemental aid, the future of some fairs and fairgrounds facilities are in question,” said Marla Calico, President & CEO, International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE).

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