On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the bipartisan Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act. The bill would help fairs across the country recover from the severe financial losses they incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, 98 percent percent of agriculture fairs in the United States were cancelled, leading to an estimated $4.5 billion in revenue losses. Introduced by Rep. Jimmy Panetta, the Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act would provide $500 million in federal grants for agricultural fairs through states and state departments of agriculture to help them recover and reopen their operations this year.
“Nearly every fair across the country was cancelled back in 2020 because of the pandemic, and the Delta variant is making it difficult for fairs to be held in 2021. Since fairs are an invaluable way to emphasize our agriculture, educate our families, and bind our community, Congress must ensure that our fairs endure,” Panetta said. “My bipartisan Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act would provide much needed federal funding to help fairs recover and safely reopen. Considering how much our local fairs promote our national agriculture, pump up our economy, and provide lasting memories, it’s Congress’ responsibility to pass this legislation.”
Prior to the pandemic, agricultural fairs generated an average of $4.67 billion per year, supporting thousands of jobs. From March through May of 2020 alone, International Association of Fairs & Expositions members reported a loss of $22 million per month. Along with Rep. Panetta, the Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act was introduced with Reps. Billy Long (R-MO), Mike Levin (D-CA), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
Newhouse said, “Fairs in Central Washington represent the best of rural America and give our communities an opportunity to come together and better understand where our food and fiber come from. Fairs also serve as an economic opportunity for many of our rural communities by supporting thousands of jobs and giving farmers a way to promote their products. This is a step in the right direction for the recovery of our economy, and I am hopeful that we can maintain this momentum to pass this legislation in the House and through the Senate.”
The legislation has been reported to the full House of Representatives, where it must be voted on by all members to pass.