It’s time for the Connecticut General Assembly to redress one of the longest-lasting vestiges of American chattel slavery in our state: the exclusion of farm and agricultural workers from basic state labor and employment protections. In the face of litigation and advocacy, New York recently updated its laws to incorporate farmworkers into the mainstream of its labor protections, and Connecticut should do the same.

Connecticut’s agricultural sector is sizable, even after the decline of the shade tobacco industry, long a state staple. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state is home to more than 5,521 farms across 381,539 acres of land. The agricultural industry contributes approximately $4 billion annually to the state’s economy and generates approximately 22,000 jobs statewide across production, processing and agribusiness. Greenhouse and nursery products account for over 50% of Connecticut’s agricultural production, and other important crops include apples, hay, dairy products, shellfish and tobacco. Nationally, the agricultural workforce is predominantly Latino, with about half the workers lacking lawful immigration status.