House Dems want more farmworker protections

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) led 70 other House Democrats Monday in encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take more measures to protect agricultural workers from exposure to pesticides.

The Democrats asked for specific measures for emergencies, child-specific protections, medical monitoring for workers who handle neurotoxic pesticides and protections from retaliation, among other provisions.

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“Exposure to pesticides increases the risk of chronic health problems among adult and child farmworkers, such as cancer, infertility, neurological disorders, and respiratory conditions,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the EPA.

“Research also shows that both farmworkers and their children may suffer decreased intellectual functioning from even low levels of exposure to organophosphate insecticides, which are widely used in agriculture,” they said. “To promote the health of rural communities and those who harvest the food for our constituents’ tables, strong protections from pesticide exposure are urgently needed.”

EPA oversees pesticide protections for agriculture. It has proposed to update the standards for the first time in more than two decades, with new rules that would mandate more frequent training and bar children from handling pesticides.

The letter from House Democrats asked for the EPA to go farther.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture opposed the new standards in its own comments, saying the current system works well.

“Instead of promulgating these proposed comprehensive revisions, we urge the agency to focus the necessary resources to work with state lead agencies and agricultural stakeholders to enhance the effectiveness of the current [standards],” the group said.