Celebrating farmworkers | Pesticide Action Network
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Celebrating farmworkers

Margaret Reeves's picture
farmworker woman

This week, we join farmworkers and farmworker advocates around the country in celebrating progress towards eliminating a long legacy of injustice. It’s National Farmworker Awareness week, and though a huge amount work remains, these are a few programs, organizations and policy wins to lift up and recognize as making strides towards creating a fair, just food system for all.

Changing the on-farm culture

The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) is a certification system created by an incredible multi stakeholder group that provides protections, training, benefits and better compensation for more than 20,000 workers in California and throughout the Americas. Not only does no other other certification program address labor, food safety and pesticide reduction like EFI does, but EFI is also a workforce development program, creating long-lasting on-farm systems change serving workers, growers, buyers and consumers. EFI is a win-win system for all actors in which:

  • Workers have a voice and their skills are recognized and well-compensated;
  • growers produce higher-quality products at greater efficiencies;
  • buyers are assured that the products they buy and sell are safer and produced in systems that respect, protect and value the workers that produced them.

But no one can tell the EFI story better than the workers themselves. Cultivating Voices is a four-part video series that shares stories from farmworkers, supervisors and managers across farms, greenhouses and packing facilities in California, Mexico and Guatemala.

Federal judge rules in favor of farmworkers

While EFI moves towards farmworker justice on the market side, a recent ruling by a federal judge saw policy progress for farmworker safety.

With their jobs on the frontline of pesticide use, farmworkers continue to experience high incidence of pesticide-related illnesses. After nearly 20 years working with partners around the country to improve rules designed to protect workers from pesticide exposure, we finally won significant improvements in the federal Worker Protection Standard.

Unfortunately, Trump’s EPA attempted to backtrack on implementation of those protections, but they didn’t get away with it. Earlier this month a federal judge ruled that EPA’s delay tactics were illegal, and that they could not block these hard-won protections for pesticide applicators.

A network of protection and empowerment

Pesticide Action Network is privileged to work alongside and in partnership with an array of dedicated organizations that serve to protect and empower farmworkers. It’s particularly inspiring to reflect on the long history of work the United Farm Workers has undertaken to protect workers from exposure to pesticides — from the first contracts banning the use of DDT in the 70s to contracts with California’s Swanton Berry farms.

And a big thanks to Student Action with Farmworkers, who organizes and coordinates National Farmworker Awareness Week each year, bringing together support around our collective efforts to improve the lives of the hardworking men and women upon whom we depend for much of the food we consume in this country and beyond.

Margaret Reeves
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Margaret Reeves is a PAN Senior Scientist with expertise in agroecology and soil ecology. As a long-time farmworker advocate, Margaret serves on the Board of the Equitable Food Initiative and works with partners around the country to ensure worker-protective federal and state policy. Follow @MargaretatPAN