BOISE, Idaho — As temperatures climb, intense heat and wildfire smoke are growing challenges for farm workers. That is why the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance (IIRA) is working on a heat and smoke relief fund for those workers.
“We know that if we can help in any way we can to ensure that they are working in good conditions,” said Irene Ruiz, the Executive Director for the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance. “That’s what we strive to do,”
The IIRA wanted to ensure that farm workers are not dying from extreme heat in Idaho, after similar cases in neighboring states. That’s why they started the Heat and Smoke Relief Fund during the Covid–19 pandemic.
“We have different partners who know different groups of farm workers, so we ensure we go to as many farms as we can,” said Ruiz.
According to the University of Idaho, last year the average number of agriculture workers was nearly 62,000.
Idaho currently has no rules to protect farm workers, but Mari Vega, a farm worker turned advocate, says the Heat and Smoke Relief Fund will help farm owners provide better working conditions.
That includes water, time to rest and allowing workers to start earlier to beat the heat. Nevertheless, the heat can be unbearable while working outside for hours on end.
“Even if you do have the tree coverage, it might be so hot and suffocating and kind of feels humid that even being under cover of the tree might not help alleviate all that heat that’s trapped in your body,” said Vega.
Organizers hope by collecting donations for the fund, they will spread awareness and protect lives in the heat.
“Our goal is to raise $10,000 and collect as many items as we can,” said Ruiz. “So far, we have collected 30 thousand in the last three years,”
You can donate on the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance website.