County forms task force to improve conditions for farm workers in wake of mass shooting

Task force aims to improve living conditions for farm workers in San Mateo County

in Community

San Mateo County has launched a task force that aims to improve the living conditions of farmworkers residing in employer-provided housing.

The task force was formed in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at two farms in Half Moon Bay on Jan. 23. County officials say the tragedy exposed unpermitted, crowded and unsanitary conditions for farm workers.

The task force includes the County’s Planning and Building Department, County Environmental Health, Department of Agriculture/Weights and Measures, County Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney. It will rely on “complaints and relevant state and local laws to identify any unpermitted farm-labor housing sites,” according to County officials.

County Supervisor Ray Mueller says many farmers and ranchers in the County “are doing things the right way,” adding that the goal of the task force is to achieve 100 percent compliance.

“I am so grateful to have the expressed support and partnership of both our County’s agricultural community leaders as well as our county’s farmworker advocate stakeholders as we undertake this work,” Mueller said.

Over 200 farms operate in San Mateo County, a majority of them less than 500 acres. They account for a $100 million annual agricultural industry in the County. Local farms rely on a mix of migrant and more permanent laborers.

Since the Jan. 23 mass shooting, the County is providing emergency housing and support for 19 displaced families. Today, the County Board was set to vote on a proposal to allocate $750,000 to house displaced workers and to seek community donations to assist families.

Photo from the Half Moon Bay Victim Remembrance event at the site of a memorial to the mass shooting victims at Mac Dutra Plaza in Half Moon Bay (Image courtesy of San Mateo County).