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Margaret Reeves's blog

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

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's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

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's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

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's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

Earlier this month, a group of farmworkers traveled from Florida and North Carolina to bring their very real-world concerns about pesticides to decisionmakers in DC. On the heels of their visits, we now hear that a long-awaited update of the rules designed to protect workers in the field is actually, finally moving forward.

The Worker Protection Standard — or WPS — is the one rule intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure on the job. It first went into effect back in 1995 and has never been strengthened or updated, despite clear evidence that workers across the country are suffering health harms from exposure to hazardous chemicals on the job. Now it looks like improvements are finally in the works. And it's about time.

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

EPA recently fined Bayer CropSciences $53,000 for endangering the lives of farmworkers with pesticide exposure in their Puerto Rican research and nursery operations. While this is a tiny drop in Bayer's multi-million dollar budget, we do take it as an encouraging sign.

The good news: When rules are enforced — in this case, the federal Worker Protection Standards (WPS) — employers are held accountable for protecting workers from exposure to hazardous pesticides. The less good news: Enforcement actions like this one are all too rare, and the WPS itself is old, inadequate and in serious need of an upgrade.