WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs on Monday revealed new funding of $4.8 million aimed at curbing the use of child and forced labor in imported agricultural products.
The project calls for a grantee to work side-by-side with an agricultural company on implementing guidelines for supply chains, evaluating the results and sharing them with the entire agriculture industry.
“Many companies, particularly in the agriculture sector, may know of labor risks in their supply chains but are cautious to acknowledge and address them publicly,” the agency said. “This project will encourage openness and transparency and provide support to a company willing to step up, acknowledge these risks, and work to address them. It will complement ILAB’s engagement with the private sector to address labor issues in supply chains around the world, whether it’s the garment industry in Bangladesh, the electronics industry in Malaysia, or the gold mining industry in Colombia.”
In its most recent annual “List of Products Produced by Child or Forced Labor,” the department identified the problem in several industry sectors, including textiles, apparel, footwear, cotton cultivation and mining. India was named for using child labor in cotton cultivation or production for the first time on the list. A total of 18 countries were named for using child or forced labor in cotton growing and cultivating, including Argentina, Brazil, China, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, among others.
The $4.8 million grant is available to applicants for one or more cooperative agreements to fund a technical assistance pilot project and test a comprehensive and sustainable program for companies that implement new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines aimed at eliminating child and forced labor in supply chains on imported agriculture products. The USDA guidelines include developing a standard set of practices for independent, third-party monitoring and verification of production, processing and distribution of imported agricultural products to reduce the use of forced or child labor.