Government / Politics

Congress seeks funding for agricultural fairs

San Benito County Fair was held in-person in 2021 after a drive-thru model was tried in 2020.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Leila Sadeghian

Because of the pandemic, with its restrictions on mass gatherings and large public events, local county fairs have been financially impacted. However, Rep. Jimmy Panetta and other members of Congress are advocating for financial relief that could help the San Benito County Fair continue to operate and entertain the public.

“In the last couple years, fairs across the country, including in our counties on the Central Coast, were prevented from opening or operating at full capacity because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Panetta in a news release. “That’s why we are continuing our efforts in Congress for any type of federal funding to help with the $4.5 billion revenue loss for fairs and allow them to get back to promoting our national agriculture, educating our future farmers, and supporting local small businesses. The federal government needs to do its part to help these fairs recover and, once again, provide economic and cultural benefits to our communities and families.”

San Benito County Fair CEO Dara Tobias said San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties have been working closely on the issue with Panetta and shared the stories of agricultural fairs and their value in connecting with urban populations.

“Our industry, and the millions we serve, is extremely grateful to them for taking the next step and proposing legislation to help fund those efforts,” Tobias said. “We hope with support from our federal government, fairs across the country will keep their grounds open and vibrant to share the story of food and fiber with those who may have no other place to hear it.”

The San Benito County Fair takes place the first weekend of October and includes carnival rides, live music, food, horse shows and Future Farmers of America livestock auctions and exhibits. 

The fair was held in-person in 2021 after a drive-thru, virtual model was offered in 2020.

Rep. Josh Harder of California’s 10th Congressional District, said, “We can’t have another year where our ag fairs are shut down. Our farmers, our workers, and our communities deserve better. It’s time Congress steps up and delivers us the protection they deserve.”

International Association of Fairs and Expositions President Marla Calico said that in addition to financial losses, county fairs have also become more expensive to operate.

“Almost all already faced a loss of 70%-100% of their total annual revenue in 2020 and then dealt with the inflated costs of doing business, if they were permitted to open by their county or state government. Most have yet to totally recover from the other important revenue stream, that of serving as their community’s top gathering and live event space for non-fair events,” Calico said.


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Leila Sadeghian