Waseca Public Health Director Sarah Berry has been chosen to serve on a new statewide committee on health and safety in the agriculture industry.

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order March 19 creating the Governor’s Committee on the Safety, Health and Wellbeing of Agricultural and Food Processing Workers.

“Agriculture and food processing are foundational to Minnesota’s economy and yet, workers in these industries face immense challenges, particularly regarding workplace safety, employment protections and access to safe housing, healthcare and transportation,” Walz said in a statement.

Berry is one of the committee’s 13 members that include representatives from the state labor and health departments, public health agencies, community organizations, food workers’ union and farmers’ organizations. Committee members will serve terms that expire in April 2023.

The committee will be co-chaired by Minnesota Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development Hamse Warfa and Minnesota Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel, according to the announcement.

“This committee will remove barriers between agencies and bring community voices to the table,” Warfa said in a statement. “Our goal will be to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of our agricultural and food processing workers remains a top priority for Minnesota.”

According to the announcement, the committee’s objectives include:

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by coordinating resources and outreach for the 2021 planting season, and assist the Minnesota Department of Health, local public health departments and community organizations with coordinating the COVID-19 response

Create a strategy to use public, private and nonprofit compliance resources to promote the health and safety of agricultural and food processing workers, especially for housing, transportation and workplaces

Develop an effective communication system between state agencies, community organizations, advocacy groups, and agricultural and food processing employers and workers

Provide government agencies, community organizations, advocacy groups, employer and worker organizations, employers and workers with a forum to engage and plan for future planting seasons.

Reach Associate Editor Lisa Kaczke at 507-444-2371. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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