SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Central Coast Congressman Jimmy Panetta has introduced a bill intended to preserve agricultural fairs facing financial losses due to COVID-19 along with three other representatives.
The bill, called the Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act, would include $500 million in federal grants for the fairs through state departments of agriculture.
“Due to the pandemic, our annual fairs not only lost out on operating in many of our communities on the Central Coast, we also missed out on the sense of community provided by those very same fairs,” said Congressman Panetta. “My bipartisan Agricultural Fairs Act would provide federal funding to assist these fairs in making up their lost revenue over this past year and help put those fairs back into our communities this coming year. Having grown up going to many of our local fairs, my legislation is meant to secure their continued success and ensure that our fairs continue to play a part in our culture.”
According to Panetta's office, agricultural fairs are one of the main ways to promote products and services. Before the pandemic, the office said they generated about $4.67 billion each year and supported thousands of jobs. Between March and May 2020, the International Association of Fairs & Expositions members reported a loss of $22 million each month.
“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. The Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act will provide financial support to keep these great community assets available to serve,” said David Kegebin, the manager of the Santa Cruz County Fair.
The CEP of the Monterey County Fair and Event Center, Kelly Violini, said fairgrounds generate more than $40 million in community benefits, and during the Carmel and River fires, the fairgrounds became an evacuation center for the SPCA. The CEO of the San Benito County Fair, Dara Tobias, says they are hopeful that the funding will help them adjust and operate at recommended capacities.