Fighting for Farmworkers & Our Environment: NHLA & Farmworker Justice Statements on EPA Nomination and Proposed Pesticide Applicator Rules

Latino Leaders Oppose the Confirmation of E. Scott Pruitt to the Position of Administrator of the EPA

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 of the nation’s preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, unanimously adopted a motion, presented by the Hispanic Federation, opposing the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing his long record working to undermine the environmental protections and enforcement entrusted to this vital agency.

The mission of the EPA and its administrator is to protect public health and safeguard our environment. However, over the past five years, Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt has used his position to repeatedly attack crucial clean air and clean water protections to the detriment of the health and well-being of millions of Americans.

As Latino leaders we have cause to be particularly troubled by this choice. Asthma and other respiratory diseases are more prevalent in Latinos living in inner cities near polluting power plants, truck routes, and factories. Latinos also make up a disproportionately large number of the workers in agricultural field occupations, where they are exposed to health hazards, bad air quality, and economic impacts of extreme weather. Meanwhile Latino children are more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino white children, and many states that are home to the country’s largest Latino communities are ground zero for the impacts of climate change, including extreme heat, drought, and sea level rise.

“Our communities strongly support efforts to reduce air, water, and climate pollution, and we support policies that cre ate good paying clean energy jobs,” said Hispanic Federation President, José Calderón. “With millions of Americans negatively impacted by air pollution, water pollution, and climate change, we simply can’t afford to have an administrator who doesn’t believe in the value of protecting our environment,” continued Calderón.

“EPA plays an important role in protecting agricultural workers and their families from exposure to pesticides and other toxins. We need an EPA administrator who will work hard to protect the health of the agricultural communities that are a vital part of the social and economic fabric of American rural communities,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice.

Nine in 10 Latinos want action on climate, while 97 percent of Latino voters agree we have a moral obligation to take care of our environment. We now look to the Senate to ensure that the next leader of EPA is someone one who will advance environmental and health protections for Latinos and for all Americans.

Farmworker Justice’s Statement on EPA’s Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule

Farmworker Justice is pleased that the EPA has published important changes to regulations that govern the certification, training and supervision of individuals who apply high-risk pesticides. The Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule (40 CFR 171), which has not been updated in nearly 40 years, provides national competency standards for those who may purchase and apply ‘restricted use pesticides’ (RUPs). A pesticide is classified as restricted if it poses heightened risk to people or the environment.

The new rule imposes stricter standards to protect human health and the environment and reduce risk to those applying pesticides. Currently there is wide variance among state certification and training programs for pesticide applicators, and requirements for supervision of non-certified applicators. We are hopeful that the new national standards will provide greater consistency in the knowledge and competency of applicators across the nation. In addition, those who apply pesticides aerially or by fumigation will have to demonstrate competency to use these application methods which pose high risk to applicators, farmworkers and surrounding communities.

Many farmworkers applying RUPs are non-English speaking, non-certified applicators who are applying these chemicals “under the supervision” of certified applicators. These are the applicators that are the most vulnerable to occupational injury from pesticide exposure. The vast majority are unable to read the application instructions and safety information printed on the pesticide labels, which are almost entirely in English. Although we are disappointed that the EPA does not require pesticide labels to have bilingual content, the revised rule requires supervisors to provide to non-certified applicators the label information about safety precautions and detailed use instructions in a manner and language that the non-certified applicator can understand. The revised rule also includes improved standards for supervision, establishes a minimum age of 18 for applicators, and requires non-certified applicators to receive pesticide handler and safety training in a language they understand.

We hope that the improved regulation will result in greater awareness by pesticide applicators of the risks they face, stronger protections from exposure, and ultimately, fewer pesticide-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths among farmworkers and their family members.

Take action to support farmworkers in the UK

Despite massive national and international opposition, the UK Government is pushing ahead with its plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) which sets minimum pay and conditions for farmworkers. The existence of the Agricultural Wages Board ensures that agricultural workers know that there is a system in place to help them exercise their rights and address power imbalances between rural workers and employers.

The U.S. based agricultural workers’ union Unite, has this week stepped up protests and actions in solidarity. We ask that you also step up to protect workers' rights for all farmworkers.

The action is not limited to UK residents so please take a moment to add your name to the international petition. 

Farmworker Immigration Update 4/8/2013

Farmworker Justice believes immigration reform must present an opportunity for farmworkers to improve their wages and working conditions, which will in turn attract and retain workers, stabilizing the workforce. For today’s and tomorrow’s farmworkers, an accessible roadmap to immigration status and citizenship, economic freedom and strong labor protections are essential to these goals.  

Read our full blog which contains our analysis of immigration reform issues impacting agriculture and highlights recent media about farmworkers and immigration :

Farmworkers travel to DC to keep spotlight on immigration

A group of Florida immigrant organizations, including the Farmworker Association of Florida, traveled from Florida to Washington, DC, last week, arriving in time for President Obama’s inauguration. The following article in the Washington Post describes the Forward With Your Promise Caravan’s efforts to press President Obama and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. 

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update

Momentum to pass comprehensive immigration reform continues to build. The White House has hinted that President Obama’s State of the Union Address may outline his immigration proposal. An increasing number of Senators and Representatives are speaking about reaching a compromise. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor leaders have been working together to press for legislative action. Efforts at a legislative compromise face many obstacles. Read more on the full blog.

New Grower Immigration Group: The Agriculture Workforce Coalition Releases Troubling Statement on Immigration Policy

A new agribusiness coalition, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, has formed to promote an immigration policy proposal. It is not yet clear what exactly they are proposing as they have published only a brief statement about its contents. While some of the description may seem reasonable and simple, it appears in reality to be a complicated proposal for several guestworker programs from which longstanding protections for U.S. workers and vulnerable foreign workers have been omitted. Read more on full blog.

Rep. Ross introduces “Legal Agricultural Workforce Act”: A 19th Century Policy for the 21st Century

The Legal Agricultural Workforce Act, HR 242 would create a massive new guestworker proposal with no meaningful labor protections. Ross ignores the lessons of history by eliminating virtually all of the labor protections that have been recognized for decades as necessary to prevent displacement of U.S. workers, depression of U.S. workers’ wage rates, and exploitation of foreign citizens. His proposal would devastate America’s farmworkers and endanger our nation’s food system. Moreover, Rep. Ross’s guestworker legislation does nothing to provide status for current undocumented farmworkers.  Read more on full blog

Forward With Your Promise Caravan Heads to Washington to Press for Immigration Reform

A group of Florida immigrant organizations, including the Farmworker Association of Florida, has embarked on a caravan from Florida to Washington, DC, to urge President Obama and Congress to follow through on his promises to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. Read more on the full blog.

Congratulations to Librada Paz on RFK Human Rights Award

Farmworker Justice congratulates Librada Paz for her receipt of the 2012 RFK Human Rights Award and the tremendous advocacy she does on behalf of farmworkers in NY to achieve equal protection under the law. Today’s award ceremony featured great speeches by Librada Paz, Kerry Kennedy, and Dolores Huerta. 

According to the RFK Center press release:

GAO Study on H-2A Visa Program Forgot Farmworkers

The new US Government Accountability Office report, “H-2A Visa Program: Modernization and Improved Guidance Could Reduce Employer Application Burden,” stresses the need for the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “improve the customer experience;” however, it only focuses on one kind of customer: employers. Though their voices aren’t as loud as the growers’, farmworkers and prospective farmworkers are also DOL’s “customers,” yet their perspective is notably absent from the report’s analysis.

Farmworkers in the News: Sept 17-21

More on Growers Calls for Agricultural Guestworker Programs Last week there was an increased number of articles on labor shortages and calls for new guestworker programs.

Media Round-Up: Continued Calls for Guestworker Programs

In the last few weeks, media coverage of agriculture has demonstrated the continued call by growers and politicians, including in the 2012 Republican Party Platform, for a new guestworker program or streamlining the existing H-2A temporary agricultural guestworker program to remove worker protections and government oversight.  These articles exaggerate claims of labor shortages and critique the H-2A programs’ worker protections as part of a campaign to gain public sympathy for a new guestworker program that woul


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