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Daily News Blog

14
Jul

Congress Proposes to Strip Farmworker Protection Standards in Funding Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2016) A funding bill (H.R. 5538) for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department is receiving pushback from conservation groups, environmental lobbyists, and workers’ rights advocates for containing dozens of controversial amendments, including  one that would strip funding for parts of the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), which establishes many  protections for  those  in the country who experience the highest and most dangerous pesticide exposure — farmworkers.

farmer worker protectionTitle IV, Section 437 of H.R. 5538 states that, “None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used to implement or enforce, or to require States to implement or enforce, the provisions of 40 CFR 170.311(b)(9) as published in the Federal Register on November 2, 2015.” The provisions of 40 CFR 170.311(b)(9) refer to the WPS revisions passed in 2015, which had previously not been updated for over 20 years. The revisions are designed to provide at least some protections from pesticide exposure to farmworkers and their families is scheduled to effect in  December 2016.

Historically, farmworker advocates have criticized  WPS as woefully inadequate in protecting the health of agricultural workers, but these new revisions strengthen the standards through increased training for workers handling pesticides, improved notification of pesticide applications, and a higher  minimum age requirement for children to work around pesticides.

According to a factsheet released by Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of  migrant and seasonal farmworkers, “Title IV, Section 437 of the FY 2017 House Appropriations Bill for the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies would prohibit ”˜the use of funds to implement or enforce,’ the provisions of the WPS that allow access to pesticide application and hazard information by a worker’s designated representative. By denying access to such information to a designated representative, Congress would create barriers that could delay medical treatment and add more to healthcare costs. The idea that workers should not be able to designate representatives is unacceptable.”

Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. As the scientific literature confirms, farmworkers, their families, and their communities face extraordinary risks from pesticide exposures. Application and pesticide drift result in dermal, inhalation, and oral exposures that are typically underestimated. A 2004 study detected agricultural pesticides in the homes near to agricultural fields. According to a 2010 study, workers experience repeated exposures to the same pesticides evidenced by multiple pesticides routinely detected in their bodies. As a result of cumulative long-term exposures, farmworkers  and their children, who often times also work on the farm, are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments, and Parkinson’s disease. Children, according to an  American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report, face even greater health risks compared to adults when exposed to pesticides. For more information, read our factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

We need Congress to reject this attack on farmworker health and safety. Please urge your member of Congress to vote “no” on H.R. 5538.

What More Can We Do?

Our food choices have a direct effect around the world on those who grow and harvest the food we eat around. This is why  food labeled organic  is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, and the protection of farmworkers and farm families. See Beyond Pesticides’ guide to  Eating with a Conscience  to see how your food choices can protect farmworkers. In addition to organic, it is also important to consider food labels that create standards for farmworker safety and fairness. For more information on the different types of food labels, including the Agricultural Justice certification  label, see the transcription of Michael Sligh’s talk at the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, titled Social Justice Labeling: From Field to Table.

For more information on Agricultural Justice, and how you can make a difference, see the Agricultural Justice Initiatives Panel from the 33rd National Pesticide Forum.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: H.R. 5538; Bloomberg BNA

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One Response to “Congress Proposes to Strip Farmworker Protection Standards in Funding Bill”

  1. 1
    Carr Says:

    I have an idea. Forget tthe protections. Get rid of the toxic pesticides. I canot believe exposing people or wildlife to these horrific poisons is legal. Feels like I’m living in a dystopian future in which might makes right in spite of there being obvious, common sense, alternative solutions right in front of us.

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