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Last week a Georgia business journal reported that the Georgia Farm Bureau, on behalf of state farmers, opposed EPA’s proposed rules to improve on-the-job protections for farmworkers. Their reasoning? They say a stronger Worker Protection Standard (WPS) would be detrimental to farmers and without “real benefit to anyone.”
Why would a Farm Bureau organization, claiming to support growers’ interests, lobby to undermine the health and safety of their workers? After all, laws that help keep workers safer, healthier and on the job are good for business. And they’re good for our entire food system.
Improvements to EPA’s safety laws are long overdue and designed to give farmworkers at least some of the protections afforded other workers. Commonsense revisions currently under consideration include:
> Increased mandatory training from every five years to every year;
> Enforced no-entry buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields (in response to well-documented risks of worker exposure to pesticide drift);
> Prohibiting children under 16 from handling hazardous pesticides;
> Implementing measures to improve states’ ability to enforce compliance, including requiring employers to keep pesticide use and worker training records.
I know many farmers, both large-scale and small and none of them argue against the protections of the workers upon whose skill and hard work they depend.