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

Margaret Reeves's blog

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Pesticides harm worms — & it doesn't take much

While there are hundreds of species of earthworms, anyone who makes compost knows the redworm, or Eisenia fetida. They make what's considered perhaps the richest form of natural fertilizer — a true friend to farmers and gardeners alike.

What you might not know is that very low levels of pesticides can kill these "black gold" producers. If they don't kill outright, pesticides can cause other serious harm, like reducing worms' ability to reproduce. Exposure to the neonicitinoid pesticide imidacloprid — well-known for its toxicity to honeybees — can also cause serious harm to worms, damaging DNA and deforming sperm. Bad news.

Margaret Reeves
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Dangers of farm work in the sunshine state

In last week’s Atlantic, Barry Estabrook shines a light on the horrific story of pesticides and farmworker families in Florida's Lake Apopka. Thousands in the small African American community suffer from myriad maladies including kidney failure and a rate of birth defects that is 4 times greater than in other Florida towns.

The response? Florida governor Rick Scott blatantly turns a blind eye, vetoing an allocation of $500,000 to investigate the birth defects. What was he thinking?

Margaret Reeves
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Bilingual pesticide labels: It's about time!

Nearly 2 million U.S. farmworkers make up the backbone of our agricultural economy, performing some of the most demanding manual labor in any economic sector. Farmworkers are also some of the least protected, experiencing a rate of pesticide poisoning 39 times higher than that found in all other industries combined.

This month Pesticide Action Network joins other farmworker advocates in urging EPA to reduce these over-the-top rates of pesticide-related illness by ensuring that farmworkers have access to basic safety information — in a language they can read.

Margaret Reeves
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Strange bedfellows on immigration reform

Who'd have thought? United Farmworkers (UFW) and the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) are on the same side of the table when it comes to farm labor and immigration reform. Since 2007 the Farm Bureau has been supporting and promoting AgJobsa compromise bill negotiated by farmworker leaders and farmers.

This month CFBF took their message to Washington, D.C. to argue against introduction of E-Verify, a mandatory electronic verification program to determine an employee's eligibility for employment. E-Verify, the Bureau claims, would lead to the collapse of the agricultural industry. UFW agrees.

Margaret Reeves
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Organic vs Conventional: Do N-fixing bacteria care?

Healthy crops come from healthy soil. Soil fertility depends on an incredible diversity and abundance of soil critters, from the microscopic to the flying and creepy crawly. Together these critters cycle nitrogen (N) and many other essential minerals and nutrients, making them available to plants. The complexity of what goes on in healthy soil is truly awe-inspiring.

A key group of organisms that provide the soil with one nutrient that's often in short supply are the N-fixing soil bacteria. And according to a recent study by UK scientists, it turns out these organisms do a better job when they're working on organic farms.

Margaret Reeves
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Celebrating farmworker victories

May has been a good month for farmworker advocates across the country — a fitting celebration of international labor day, celebrated on May 1st around the world. From California to Oregon to Florida, several hard-won and important victories deserve recognition.

Here in California, we're celebrating a legislative victory moving the Fair Treatment for Farmworkers Act to the governor’s desk. Thanks to our California supporters for your calls to Sacramento; you helped keep this important bill moving. We'll keep you posted on the outcome.

Margaret Reeves
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CA law could strengthen farmworker voices

In California and throughout the country hard-working farmworker men and women face abuses on and off the field in part because they enjoy few legal protections.

On May 16, California legislators will be voting on a proposed law that tackles this issue: The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act (SB 104). This legislation would strengthen farmworker voices and give them tools to protect the basic rights that most workers already enjoy — and should be wholeheartedly supported.

Margaret Reeves
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Protect our soil – we can’t live without it

Farmers are the stewards of the land; sadly, politics often dictate how they farm. In the coming days, Congress will make decisions on funding priorities for 2012, and dramatic cuts to soil conservation programs are being proposed.

We cannot afford to let this happen. Our nation’s ability to produce adequate healthy food, and to protect vital air and water resources, depend on how we treat the soil. Cutting soil conservation programs now will have devastating consequences long into the future. Call your Congressmember today and let them know healthy soil is well worth the modest investment.

Margaret Reeves
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Act NOW to save conservation funding

This week, the Administration and Congress are poised to make huge cuts to vital conservation programs that may spell the end of the Farm Bill as we know it. We must oppose this short-sighted lunacy, and the time is now.

Please join the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and PAN as we urge the leader of the Senate Agriculture committee, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), to do everything possible to protect Farm Bill conservation funding. You can email Senator Stabenow even if you're not in Michigan — I did, it's easy. She needs to know that people across the country care about conservation.

Margaret Reeves
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UFW & Bon Appétit join forces for farmworkers

This week, in a fitting tribute to Cesar Chávez, the union that the farmworker leader co-founded in 1962 joined with a Palo Alto-based food service company to release a groundbreaking report describing the current status of the nation’s 1.4 million farmworkers, and calling for fundamental changes to improve farmworker welfare.

Margaret Reeves

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