Picture of Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Minnesota Updates: May 2020

The latest out of Minnesota: Food worker safety; A new herbicide; Farmworker wage cuts

As Minnesota is one of the states in which PAN does on-the-ground campaign work, we send out regular updates on PAN and partners’ work in Minnesota and beyond — from pesticide-related science to opportunities to take action. If you’d like to receive these updates via email, sign up here.

State updates

Food supply vs. worker safety: Workers in meatpacking and food processing plants across the country are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 — and in Minnesota, meatpacking plants are behind the largest spikes in rural cases. Despite the fact that 1 in 20 people in Nobles County, home of the JBS pork processing plant, have tested positive for Coronavirus, the plant reopened on Wednesday. And in Stearns County, which has two poultry processing plants, cases are surging.

In this moment, it’s disgraceful to see media outlets pit farmers and consumers against foodworkers. In reality, this situation only exposes the vulnerable underbelly of a corporate food system that has always put profit over people. A two-week delay in processing shouldn’t force farmers to euthanize thousands of pigs — but agribusiness consolidation and a farm crisis leave large hog farmers with this upsetting decision to make.

Social distancing measures are near-impossible in processing plants that have worked to consolidate, expand, and speed up their processing times over the past years (just four U.S. packing plants kill and butcher 57% of hogs). And the workforce in these plants is disproportionately vulnerable — poor people, refugees and immigrants, undocumented workers, and women of color.

This situation is tragic and upsetting. But as workers organize to demand full protections and ag agencies pivot to support small-scale meat processing options, the food-system changes we desperately need could be close at hand. As everyone on the margins of this food system watches this unfolding crisis with dismay, it’s time to look to new, yet age-old models that get food to people safely and equitably.

Nationwide updates

EPA quietly approves isoxaflutole: Unfortunately, you’re about to become familiar with yet another harmful pesticide that has been quietly approved by EPA while the country is otherwise distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Isoxaflutole, manufactured by the German agrichemical giant BASF, combines the worst of glyphosate and dicamba — it’s a weedkiller EPA itself has determined is likely to cause cancer and drift hundreds of feet from where it is applied.

EPA approved isoxaflutole for use in 25 states by sidestepping the usual public input process for the decision. The herbicide’s registration was opened for public comment, but not listed in the federal register. Scientists shared that the press release EPA issued around the approval caught everyone off guard, as they were waiting for the comment period to open and never got word that it already had. Read more here.

Latest science

EPA stops atrazine water monitoring: Until recently, EPA required that Syngenta, the maker of the endocrine-disrupting herbicide atrazine, conduct monitoring of the chemical in several states’ community water systems, and ecological monitoring in watersheds. But in late April, the corporation requested to halt this ecological monitoring of atrazine due to COVID-19 concerns. EPA has granted this request for the year 2020, with the assumption that the program will resume in 2021.

EPA found in a 2016 Ecological Risk Assessment that atrazine’s levels of concern were exceeded for chronic risks to wildlife, including amphibians. Aquatic plant communities were also determined to be impacted in areas with heavy atrazine use. Despite their own assessment and plan to reduce atrazine in aquatic ecosystems, EPA announced in November 2019 that it was increasing the level of concern for atrazine in aquatic ecosystems, allowing more atrazine in our waterways.

Upcoming events and community actions

Cover Cropping for Gardeners
Join SFA’s Amy Beckman for an online educational program to learn about using cover crops for vegetable suppression and soil-building.

Solar on Farms Webinar
Join Solar United Neighbors to learn about grants and financing available for installing on-farm solar projects, which can be a great way to diversify farm revenue.

Stop Utility Shutoffs
Join CURE in signing your name to this action alert telling lawmakers how important it is that ALL Minnesotans have access to electricity, water, internet, and phone during the COVID-19 crisis.

Vote by Mail Action
With our Democracy sitting on a fence, tell lawmakers how important it is that Minnesotans have the right to vote by mail in the upcoming election. (Many rural precincts already do vote by mail — this move would make it available across Minnesota.)

Take action

Farmworkers are risking their health to keep our food system going without adequate health, safety, and financial protection in the midst of COVID-19. Meanwhile, this administration has proposed slashing minimum wages for farmworkers on guest worker visas as “aid” to industrial agriculture.

Join us in calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to block this proposed wage cut for farmworkers.

Take Action

Picture of Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

Share this post