ST. PAUL A committee to look into the health and safety of the state's agricultural and food processing workers is being established by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Walz established the committee via executive order on Friday, March 19, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic first made landfall in Minnesota. Last year, several meat processing facilities in the region saw high-profile virus outbreaks, which shone a spotlight on workers' health and safety rights.

While agricultural and food processing workers "are foundational to Minnesota’s economy," they "face immense challenges, particularly regarding workplace safety, employment protections, and access to safe housing, health care, and transportation," Walz said in a statement Friday.

The committee will work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, plan for future growing seasons, dedicate resources toward housing and transportation for workers, improve communication between state agencies, labor groups and advocates and more.

Two deputy commissioners from the state's Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Dept. of Agriculture will co-chair the committee. Additional state employees, union representatives and stakeholders will be on the 15-member committee.