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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bountiful table surrounded by friends and family — that's how many of us celebrate Thanksgiving. So it makes sense that this week we pause and give thanks to the many people who make the celebration possible.
From the farmers who grow the food, to the workers who package and process it, to the millions of farmworkers who work extraordinarily hard to cultivate and harvest the crops that sustain us all, those all along the food chain deserve our thanks — and our support.