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Daily News Blog

18
Nov

Stand Up for Those Who Harvest Our Food – Farmworkers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2019) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing changes to the way farmworkers and bystanders are protected from toxic pesticide applications. Billed as “improvements” that will “reduce regulatory burdens for farmers,” the actions would instead significantly shrink Application Exclusion Zones (AEZs), buffer areas where individuals are not supposed to enter during a pesticide application, putting farmworkers and bystanders at risk.

Tell your Congressional Representative and Senators that EPA must protect farmworkers.

“Although the proposal is framed as a narrow revision, it would in fact eliminate, reduce, or weaken various AEZ provisions,” said Farmworker Justice attorney Iris Figueroa to Politico. “These changes threaten to increase exposure to toxic pesticide drift for farmworkers and their families.”

EPA’s proposal, announced in a press release featuring the heads of industry associations like the American Farm Bureau, would do the following:

  • Make AEZs applicable only to a farm owners’ property. Under the current rules, pesticide handlers are required to keep individuals out of an area where pesticides are applied both on and off site.
  • Exempt on-farm family members from all aspects of the AEZ. EPA says this will allow farmers and their family “to decide whether to stay in their homes or…on their property during certain pesticide applications, rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining.” Feeling safe is not the same as being safe–one is based on emotions and the other on science.
  • State that suspended pesticide applications may continue when an individual leaves an AEZ, and revise criteria determining when a pesticide application is subject to an AEZ. These changes backtrack safety requirements and would shrink the type of pesticide applications covered under this rule.

The agrichemical industry has lobbied against the AEZ and other farmworker protections since they were revised during the Obama administration. The Obama-era revision occurred after 25 years of inaction on farmworker rights and was worked out with both industry and farmworker advocates at the table. Early in Trump’s presidency, then EPA-head Scott Pruitt announced his intent to revisit several provisions that were recently put in place. This included the requirement that farmworkers be 18 to apply highly toxic pesticides, a clause which allows farmworkers have a “designated representative” obtain information about where and when pesticides were applied, and the AEZ. The EPA proposal has garnered support from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture Congressman Mike Conaway.

As recent as October 2018, and even after 28 Senators wrote EPA to oppose any changes, the agency had intended to revise each of these reforms. But it appears that in late 2018, an agreement was reached as part of a deal cut by lawmakers and the administration that permitted confirmation of Alexandra Dunn to the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention in exchange for EPA concessions that would improve pesticide safety measures. Beyond Pesticides wrote, “While advocates are generally pleased with the outcome of the apparent deal, the irony that deals needed to be made for an agency with protection in its name to do its job is not lost.”

As noted at the time of the deal, AEZs were not included in this agreement. Last week’s announcement shows EPA delivered for industry interests within the year.

Currently, the average life expectancy for a farmworker is 49 years, compared to 78 for the general population. This is similar to the life expectancy of individuals living in the 1850s and is completely unacceptable for any industry today. It is critical that government agencies work towards enforcing laws agreed to by consensus between industry and advocates, rather than work with industry in its attempts to renege on these deals.

Tell your Congressional Representative and Senators that EPA must protect farmworkers.

 

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One Response to “Stand Up for Those Who Harvest Our Food – Farmworkers”

  1. 1
    Susan Marie Says:

    Signed to support this important petition.

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  • Archives

  • Categories

    • ALS (2)
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    • Antibiotic Resistance (11)
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    • Aquatic Organisms (9)
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    • Fungicides (7)
    • Goats (1)
    • Golf (11)
    • Health care (32)
    • Holidays (24)
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    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (59)
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    • Label Claims (47)
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    • Microbiome (6)
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    • synergistic effects (2)
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