Berlin, WI, Aug 17, 2011 -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UMOS MIGRANT HOUSING COMMEMORATES 20 YEARS
Rural Housing and Community Programs Administrator Trevino Applauds Partnership
BERLIN, WI – AUGUST 17, 2011 - - - - In 2010, the United States exported $136 billion dollars in agricultural products, resulting in a $44 billion surplus of exported versus imported agricultural products, according to Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack .
Migrant farm workers are a vital part of the nation’s workforce that contributes to this surplus. “America’s success as a world leader economically can be traced to the hard work and contributions of the many diverse populations that now consider the United States their home,” states USDA Rural Development State Director, Stan Gruszynski, based in Stevens Point.
Migrant farmworkers are also a vital workforce that contributes to Wisconsin’s agricultural and food processing industries. Approximately 4000 migrant farmworkers travel to Wisconsin to harvest apples, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and potatoes.
“Without this viable, reliable workforce, many of our fruits and vegetables would not be harvested,” states Lupe Martinez, President/CEO, UMOS.
Waushara County has the highest concentrations of migrant farm workers in the state. Finding short term, affordable housing is often times a problem.
“UMOS, in partnership with USDA and other funding sources, is proud of providing safe, affordable farm worker housing for 20 years at the Aurora Center. The UMOS Aurora Center not only benefits farm workers, but large and small growers and food processors as well,” said Martinez.
The Aurora Center was created in response to a need witnessed by UMOS staff during the 1980s, when many migrant families with children were seen sleeping in cars, at waysides and parks.
In 1991, an abandoned migrant camp in Eastern Waushara County was located. Through a USDA Rural Development Emergency Shelter Grant, as well as other funding, UMOS leased the facility and opened the 16-unit facility as an emergency shelter for migrants.
In 1994, a grant/loan package was obtained from USDA Rural Development to purchase and enlarge the facility with a community center. In 1995, sixteen additional units were
added, bringing the total number of two and three bedroom housing units to 32.
A separate, UMOS Migrant Head Start modular facility was also added on the Aurora Center grounds in 1995, making the Aurora Center truly unique. Several upgrades have occurred, including an upgrade to the sewer facilities, water softening, bathrooms and paving of the main driveway. These upgrades were made possible through financing from USDA Rural Development and grants from WHEDA.
“Over the years the UMOS Aurora Housing Center has providing clean, safe, and affordable rental housing for over 10,000 farm worker families in Waushara County and Central Wisconsin.
“UMOS has been an effective advocate for migrant families whose labor and initiative are critical to the production and processing of the food we eat," added Gruszynski. "USDA Rural Development is proud of the strong partnership and productive working relationship that has been developed over the years here in Wisconsin; and we are looking forward to continuing that relationship and wish UMOS much success in the future.”
USDA Rural Development’s mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. As the lead federal agency for rural development needs, USDA Rural Development returned nearly $936 million dollars this past year to rural Wisconsin communities. Funds are used to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technological infrastructures. Further information on USDA Rural Development programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting the web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/wi.