Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

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.

It's been a long time coming. For more than a decade, PAN and partners from around the country have urged EPA — with data and stories from the field — to improve the rules designed to protect the nation’s nearly two million farmworkers from the hazards of workplace exposure to pesticides.

Most recently, we delivered a petition with more than 18,000 signatures reiterating our message.

As a result of this ongoing pressure, EPA recently completed its proposed improvements to the WPS that include such things as better and more frequent farmworker training, requirements for growers to keep pesticide use records for at least two years, and use of no-spray buffer zones between pesticide application sites and workers in the field.

The regulations provide both rules and guidance so that all employers of farmworkers can benefit from a more protected and better-informed workforce that can continue to provide high-quality work with fewer job disruptions due to pesticide-related workforce injury and illness.

Speak up for fairness

But we didn’t get all of the needed improvements, so stay tuned as the proposed rule is made public in the coming weeks. We'll provide details on how you can voice your support for stronger farmworker protections. 

So as you show appreciation to your sweetheart with a gift of flowers (or chocolate, or a wonderful fresh meal), take a moment to pause in appreciation of the farmworkers whose tireless work helped bring you those fruits of their labor.

And then continue to lend your voice to this important struggle for fairness in the fields.


Photo credit: Kristjanath/Flickr

Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

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

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