County supervisors Janet Wolf and Salud Carbajal are convening a town hall meeting Monday evening in Santa Maria to discuss working conditions for farmworkers in Santa Barbara County. The purpose is to provide space for farmworkers to air grievances before a panel of county and state officials, including representatives from the District Attorney’s Office and the Agriculture Advisory Committee.
The backstory is that CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) advocates have implored the county supervisors — namely board chair Peter Adam, who owns a large family farm — to host such a forum for nearly a year. They had also called on the supervisors to adopt a Bill of Rights to augment the state legal protections already in place. To justify their argument, CAUSE presented a study based on hundreds of interviews that painted working conditions in North County as horrendous, which agriculture representatives flatly refuted. Critics questioned the study’s methodology and essentially dismissed bad conditions as restricted to much smaller farms.
Now, after some heated back and forth at the Agriculture Advisor Committee, Carbajal and Wolf decided to host the forum. It will take place at the Betteravia Center from 6-8 p.m. on Monday, and be video streamed at the County Administration Building in Santa Barbara.
“This is a great opportunity to hear directly from farmworkers and other stakeholders about their experiences in the fields,” Carbajal said. Added Wolf: “I am hopeful that this forum will provide a wealth of information about resources to assist and support the lives of farmworkers in our county.”