Twenty years of work by farmworker organizations and farmworker advocates around the country, including the Farmworker Association of Florida, are under attack by the new administration at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the recent Executive Order to “reduce regulatory burden.” Successes for farmworker health and safety achieved under the Obama Administration are being undermined, putting farmworkers at increased risk of exposure to known toxic chemical pesticides. We will not quietly accept these roll-backs, when we know the devastating consequences that exposure to pesticides has on farmworkers and their families.
WPS – Twenty years of work under threat and needless delay! In 2015, twenty years after the first regulatory reforms to give farmworkers specific rights to protection from pesticide exposure, the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) was updated and greatly improved by the EPA to include important new protective provisions, including mandated annual trainings with expanded content and a minimum age of 18 for handling agricultural pesticides. Sadly, putting the urging of industry and state agricultural agencies over science and public health, EPA issued a memo on May 22nd approving a delay of the new, more protective WPS provisions, even though there had been an exhaustive public comment period in 2015, and EPA officials themselves had previously acknowledged the need for and importance of these new regulations. The impact of this cannot be overstated. Every day, farmworkers risk their health to grow and harvest the food the rest of us eat. They deserve the regulations that can help protect their and their children’s health, not a rollback of two decades of work. Regulations are not a “regulatory burden” but a way to keep farmworkers safe.
CPA – Forty years too long; no need for further delays! The Certified Pesticide Applicator (CPA) rule has not been updated in close to 40 years. Yet, in a process started under the previous administration, the regulations that govern the training and certification of pesticide applicators of Restricted Use (the most toxic) Pesticides or RUPs went through the formal comment and review process, resulting in a new rule adopted in January 2017. The new rule would standardize training and certification across different states, and ensure a more well-informed and trained pesticide applicator workforce. This would translate into better protections for farmworkers, rural and residential communities, our water and our environment. In an unprecedented move, the EPA reversed course, announced three delays to the implementation of the new rule, with this last announcement delaying the rule for over one year. The public had a mere five days! to make comment on the delay. The rule has a 3-year phase in period to allow all states the time to comply, making any delay entirely unnecessary. For more information read.
PRIA – A program rollback undermines collaboration. The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) is a program, begun in 2003, that forged collaboration between industry, farmworkers and advocates to direct industry fees to fund programs that protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure. That collaboration between unlikely partners is now under threat of collapse, thanks to moves by the new Administration to slash the budget of the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. Funds to oversee, implement and enforce the other regulations that protect farmworkers could be drastically cut, leaving the responsibility to the states, many of which do not have sufficient resources to implement these programs. This threatens the health and well-being of farmworkers, in addition to our public health system, our food and our environment. The U.S. Senate must reauthorize PRIA for the sake of everyone in the nation.
Chlorpyrifos – The science is clear; chlorpyrifos harms children! Though it was banned for residential use in 2001 because of its known neurodevelopmental effects on children, chlorpyrifos has still been permitted for use in agriculture, where farmworkers and their children have been exposed for decades and even generations to this toxic pesticide. The science is clear – chlorpyrifos, commonly known as Dursban and Lorsban – can cause learning disabilities, ADHD, motor skills deficits among other things in children exposed in utero and/or to residues of the pesticide. At long last, EPA in 2016 agreed that the science was overwhelming and agreed to ban all food uses of the pesticide. While this decision was focused on protecting the public from consumption of the chemical on fruits and vegetables, farmworkers harvesting the produce would have been beneficiaries of the new rule. In a move that contradicts the mountain of scientific evidence of its dangers, the new EPA Administrator has reversed course, ignoring the science and public outcry, electing instead to continue the contamination of our food, and the threats to farmworker and farmworker children’s health. For more information on Chlorpyifos read this and this.
In the face of these four outrages, the Farmworker Association of Florida will push back against these decisions that are harmful to the men and women and families who feed our nation.
We will be calling on all our supporters to stand with us and many, many others to send a strong message that these decisions are totally unacceptable to the American public. We can do it! Yes, we can! Sí, Se Puede!