Margaret Reeves's blog | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Margaret Reeves's blog

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A valentine for farmworkers

Before you head off to celebrate Valentine’s Day dinner with your loved one, take a moment to send some of that love to the hardworking men and women who put all that good, fresh food on your table.

If you're reading this before 11am pacific time on February 13th, you can send a "Thunderclap" valentine to EPA's Gina McCarthy, asking her to take a stand to protect farmworker health. All of the resulting tweets and Facebook posts will appear en masse Friday morning.

Margaret Reeves
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Welcome to the "Year of Soils!"

As an agroecologist with a keen interest in soil, I'm excited to share that 2015 is the "International Year of Soils." In the coming months, I'll have a chance to dive into an issue that's near and dear to my heart.

I’ll be able to spread the word about how living, healthy soils provide the foundation for production of our feed, fiber and fuel — and about 95% of all the food we consume. I’ll tell stories of tried-and-true traditions of excellent soil stewardship and cutting-edge soil biology. What fascinates me most is the tremendous impact of biology — in all its incredible abundance and diversity — on soil systems.

Margaret Reeves
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Toward non-toxic 'taters

 

When you think of potatoes, you might think of McDonald's french fries. But what do we know about how those potatoes are grown? Are hazardous pesticides applied? And what might that mean to the health and wellbeing of communities in potato-growing regions?

The fact is, more than 1,750,000 pounds of pesticides were applied to U.S. potatoes in 2012. Topping the list of pesticides of concern, particularly in the potato-growing regions of Minnesota, is the highly hazardous fungicide chlorothalonil (a probable carcinogen). But this is just one of dozens of health-harming chemicals routinely applied in conventional potato production.

Margaret Reeves
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Food Week for food workers

We close Food Week with a shout out in celebration of the millions of food workers around the world upon whose hard work the food system depends — from picking to packing, serving to selling. Sadly, these workers share one thing in common around the globe: they are among the worst paid workers in an industry that creates some of the largest corporate profits.

Margaret Reeves
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Protecting farmworkers, protecting crops

Last week a Georgia business journal reported that the Georgia Farm Bureau, on behalf of state farmers, opposed EPA’s proposed rules to improve on-the-job protections for farmworkers. Their reasoning? They say a stronger Worker Protection Standard (WPS) would be detrimental to farmers and without “real benefit to anyone.”

Why would a Farm Bureau organization, claiming to support growers’ interests, lobby to undermine the health and safety of their workers? After all, laws that help keep workers safer, healthier and on the job are good for business. And they're good for our entire food system.

Margaret Reeves
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Voices united for farmworker safety!

Six months after EPA published its long-awaited proposal for improving the federal rules protecting farmworkers from pesticide exposure, we’re ready to celebrate a tremendous show of farmworker solidarity. Next week is the deadline for telling EPA to ensure the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) rules are at least as strong as those protecting other workers. If you haven't yet, it's not too late to add your voice.

Margaret Reeves
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Celebrate & support farmworkers!

Happy Farmworker Awareness Week! Each year we celebrate this nationwide event by encouraging the PAN community to join us in a variety of actions, from lifting up stories from the field to supporting actions to protect the health of farmworkers and their families. Among the urgent challenge these workers face every day is exposure to harmful pesticides on the job.

Our food system depends on the labor of these more than two million workers, and they depend on our support! This year there’s a lot happening. Topping our list of action opportunities is the fact that EPA has finally proposed much-needed improvements in the national worker safety rules for farmworkers. It's about time!

Margaret Reeves
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New farmworker rules: Better, but not good enough

Last week EPA released its proposal for long-awaited improvements in the federal worker protection standard (WPS). These are the rules designed to protect the nation’s nearly two million farmworkers from the hazards of pesticide exposure. While the proposed changes include many of the improvements we and other farmworker advocates have been pushing for, there's still a long way to go.

We'll be joining our partners to generate thousands of comments on the rules over the next few months, from diverse sectors across the country — stay tuned. Meanwhile, below is my initial take on the proposed changes, including what's good and what needs to be improved.

Margaret Reeves
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Farmworkers, flowers & fairness

Each year we mark Valentine's Day by urging people to remember the workers who make those gorgeous bouquets of roses possible. I'm very pleased to report that this year, we're finally seeing some real progress toward safer conditions — and more protections from pesticides — for farmworkers across the country.

Just this week, 52 members of Congress sent a letter to EPA urging the agency to make sure that the long-awaited improvements in the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS) are meaningful and promptly completed. So after you buy (or enjoy a gift of) cut flowers this week, keep an eye out here for upcoming opportunities to support better safety rules for the farmworkers who toiled to grow and harvest that bouquet.

Margaret Reeves
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A Farm Bill at long last

Phew! After a long, arduous two-and-a-half year process, we finally have a Farm Bill. The bill, approved recently in both the House and Senate, now goes to President Obama for near-certain approval. Unfortunately, as we reported last week after the House vote, the new law is a real mixed bag.

On the plus side, support is up for local and regional food systems; farmers must conserve soil and water if they want help paying for crop insurance; and more insurance options are now available for organic farmers. On the minus side, food stamp funding was slashed; Congress failed miserably to rein in huge payments to millionaire farmers; and conservation funding was reduced for the first time since the program began in 1985.

Margaret Reeves
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