Earthquake in Mexico and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Affect FWAF Community Members
Hurricane Irma swept through Florida in early September, covering almost the entire state and leaving damage and destruction to various degrees throughout south, central and north Florida, including the Florida Keys. Local, state and federal agencies and relief organizations have been working at top capacity ever since the hurricane made landfall in the state, and churches, aid and civic organizations, and individuals wanting to help have been collecting donations and volunteering for disaster relief and response efforts.
The Farmworker Association of Florida staff have barely been able to come up for air, as we both receive and distribute donations and supplies; assist those impacted by the storm with accessing services; provide assistance and referrals; assess damage to families’ homes and belongings and their housing needs; and glean information daily about the long-term impact to the state’s agricultural production from the untimely onslaught of the storm. Staff members are compiling information to be able to report on the specific impacts to those in their areas.
In Homestead, for example, tropical fruit plantations lost a season’s crop as avocados and other tree fruits lay on the ground, stripped from the trees by the hurricane force winds, and okra plants were ‘burned up’ by the storm, both of which will have longer term impacts on farmworkers’ jobs.
In Pierson, the “Fern Capital of the World,” and an area of majority Hispanic farmworkers who work and make their living in the fern industry, a significant percentage of the fern crop was decimated at what would be peak season going into the holiday harvest time. (Volusia County news article)
In Immokalee, an estimated over 50 trailers, housing mostly local farmworkers, were seriously damaged or destroyed, leaving families destitute and homeless, some with young children to care for and with uncertainty for their future. (Naples News Article)
The Fellsmere community was not able to drink local tap water for close to two weeks, and in Apopka, some homes were without power for almost two weeks, meaning loss of food due to no refrigeration and forcing community members to spend money to eat out and to buy gas to get supplies.
But, as power and water are restored and emergency supplies are distributed, the real issues will be down the road, over the next few months as families struggle to get back on their feet. Between 70-90% of the state’s citrus crop was destroyed, meaning the loss of jobs for hundreds of farmworkers. (Citrus Industry article). Damage to nurseries, greenhouses, ferneries, and even some vegetable crops, leaves the future of jobs for farmworkers for the coming season – and even future years – in question.
For those wanting to know how they can best help FWAF help farmworkers in Florida, the organization has set up a special fund for donations to help farmworkers pay rent and utility bills in the aftermath of the storm and the hard hit taken by Florida agriculture. The funds will go to the areas and families with the most need, and it will be on-going until things can stabilize for farmworkers in the state. Anyone wanting to make a donation can do so by logging on to PayPal or by sending a check to the Farmworker Association of Florida, 1264 Apopka Blvd., Apopka, FL 32703 and designated for Hurricane Irma Relief Fund.
Throughout all our efforts in Florida, we are also grieving for the loss of life and security in our sister countries of Mexico and Puerto Rico. As much as we welcome contributions to help farmworkers in Florida, for those who are able to, we also support and encourage donations to help relief efforts to help those hardest hit by these devastating disasters.
In conclusion, we celebrate the resiliency of the human spirit, even as we forge ahead in strength, and with humanity and solidarity.
While our staff and leadership collectively assess the damage and embark on recovery and assistance efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Farmworker Association of Florida simultaneously stands in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth around the country who are outraged at the unconscionable decision by the Trump Administration to end, within the next six months, the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.
The DACA program has provided a window of opportunity to many aspiring young immigrant youth – the Dreamers – who have been making important contributions not only to their families and their communities, but to the very fabric of our nation. Through DACA, these young people have been able to qualify for drivers’ licenses, pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, pursue higher education and good careers, start their own businesses, and walk proudly for the first time out of the shadows and without fear in own their neighborhoods and towns.
DACA was a response by the Obama Administration to the failings of members of previous Congresses to pass a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill package and to address in any meaningful way our failing immigration system. The process to apply for and be accepted as a DACA recipient is extensive and comprehensive. Many young people were assisted in the DACA application process by the Farmworker Association of Florida, and many of our community members, youth leaders, and family members are DACA recipients. These are our people! They deserve better than the threat of losing their DACA status and a return to hiding in the shadows and living in fear.
Just as we work to defend farmworkers in Florida and around the country, we stand on the side of justice for the Dreamers and we are ready to defend and support our immigrant youth, who have so much to offer, and have so much to lose if we don’t make our voices heard! Stand with us! Stand with the Dreamers!
The recent pardon, by President Trump, of former Maricopa County, Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio is an affront to the separation of powers exercised by our judiciary and to the Latino community in the United States. Sherriff Arpaio began his campaign of racial profiling Latino immigrants in 2007, using harsh tactics and threats that amounted to a violation of civil and human rights. These abuses ended only when the voters had their say and Arpaio lost his reelection bid last November. Above all, this Presidential pardon is another example of the contempt this administration has for minorities’ human rights. Mr. Arpaio has a long list of violations, including that of unlawfully detaining individuals of minority ethnic background, that were finally addressed by a court ruling, which he subsequently violated and was ruled in contempt of court. This pardon is just another indication of this administration’s willingness to protect acts of racism, in spite of the examples of criminal acts that were perpetrated two weeks ago against counter protestors, by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia. FWAF vigorously condemns this unjustifiable pardon and is confident that, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of history will “bend toward justice.”
El reciente perdón por el Presidente Trump del ex-alguacil del condado de Maricopa en Arizona, Joe Arpaio, es una afrenta a la separación de poderes ejercidos por nuestro judiciario y a la comunidad latina en los Estados Unidos. El Alguacil Arpaio empezó su campaña de perfilación racial a los inmigrantes latinos en el 2007, usando tácticas duras y amenazas que equivalieron a una violación de derechos civiles y humanos. Estos abusos terminaron sólo cuando los votantes usaron su voz y Arpaio perdió su competencia de reelección el noviembre pasado. Por encima de todo, este perdón presidencial es otro ejemplo del desprecio que esta administración tiene por los derechos humanos de las minorías. El Sr. Arpaio tiene una larga lista de violaciones, incluyendo la de ilegalmente detener a individuos de ascendencia de etnia minoritaria, que finalmente fueron abordados por un fallo jurídico, el cual él subsecuentemente violó y fue encontrado como desacato al tribunal. Este perdón es sólo otra indicación de la disposición de esta administración de proteger actos de racismo, a pesar de los ejemplos de actos criminales que se perpetraron hace dos semanas hacia contra-manifestantes, por grupos supremacistas blancos en Charlottesville, Virginia. La FWAF vigorosamente condena este perdón injustificable y tiene la certeza que, en las palabras de Martin Luther King, Jr., el arco de la historia se “doblará hacia el lado de la justicia.”
Immigrant families around the country and the American public are facing another assault that increases fear and uncertainty in our communities.
Presented as a merit-based system for immigration by the Trump Administration, the proposed RAISE Act (Restoring American Immigration for Strong Employment Act), introduced in the Senate by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Purdue (R-GA), is an inaccurately-named and thinly-veiled attempt to narrow legal immigration into the United States to white Europeans. Using coded language, such as “English-speaking” and “highly-skilled” immigrants, this bill forms part of the same hateful rhetoric, such as in the travel ban, coming from the White House that has fueled uncertainty among and even led to violence against innocent immigrants. This bill also seeks to eliminate the diversity immigrant visa category established in 1965 and reduce the number of family-sponsored immigrants to the US. The Farmworker Association of Florida opposes and strongly denounces this act and the atmosphere of fear and divisiveness it promotes.
We reject the notion that uneducated workers are unskilled. Rather, many – such as farmworkers - have skills not every American is able or willing to perform. Historically, immigration to the US has allowed workers with different skills to fill the labor demands the economy required.
The RAISE Act is another attack by the current administration against immigrant communities, by driving a discourse that promulgates the false notion that immigrants of color and without wealth are bad for the US. The bill has already been denounced by various Catholic organizations, as well as by the Southern Poverty Law Center. While the Washington Post reports that the bill faces serious challenges in the Senate, the continued use of anti-immigrant rhetoric fuels misconceptions about immigrants and has a divisive effect on our society at large. This runs contrary to the principles that have built the US from its very inception as a society, where people of different creeds and colors from many nations have woven the rich tapestry that is our country. This makes our experience richer and our democracy stronger.
We urge our supporters and allies to contact their members of Congress and voice their opposition to the RAISE Act, and warn your political leaders against falling into complacency while sowing the seeds of divisiveness that undermine the principles of our democracy.
Opportunities and threats, these are the times we live in and farmworkers’ lives are in the balance as policies change rapidly while Congress and the Administration tinker with immigration policies that have real world and devastating impacts for millions of people in our communities.
The opportunity is the Agricultural Worker Program Act, sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) in the House of Representatives and by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate. This bill, known as the Blue Card Bill, would allow adjusted status to farmworkers who meet certain eligibility requirements, and a path to permanent residence status to those farmworkers currently living and working in the U.S. The Blue Card bill would allow farmworkers to maintain economic stability for their families and afford them the ability to participate more fully in our economy, while also allowing growers access to a more stable, more skilled, happier and healthier workforce.
The threat comes from a recent vote by the House Appropriations Committee to expand the H2A visa program for farmworkers to include yearlong work periods, overriding the current program that limits “guestworkers” to nine month work contracts. This expansion of the H2A visa program is being squeezed through by placing it as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill, limiting House debate on the bill and making it more difficult for those opposed to vote against it. Guestworker programs often leave farmworkers unprotected. The H2A visa, as with other guestworker programs, has a legacy of abuses against workers who are brought to this country to harvest our nation’s crops. In addition, workers who have been living and working in agriculture for years, if not decades, are displaced by H2A workers, leaving tens of thousands of hardworking men and women without a livelihood and, in some cases, with no place to live. This means displacement, inadequate wages, and inability to integrate into the national economy for the hardworking families in our communities.
The Trump Administration has made it a priority to make immigrants scapegoats of America’s problems, despite their continued contributions to make our economy grow. In a recent article on Politico.com, Eliana Johnson and Josh Dawsey report Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) are working with White House aide Stephen Miller to slash the number of immigrants allowed into the country annually. Met with agricultural concerns for a decrease in the labor pool, the Administration in conjunction with its Mexican counterpart, have taken steps to make guestworker programs more widespread, as was reported in the National Public Radio and Reuters earlier this month..
Farmworkers do the hard work that feeds the rest of us in this country. FWAF stands in opposition to the House of Representatives DHS Spending Bill in the Appropriations Committee and in support of the Agricultural Worker Program Act. We urge all our members, partners, and allies to voice their support for the Blue Card AWPA of 2017 to their elected representatives in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Thank you for your support.
By Ted Goldberg
JULY 6, 2017
Advocates for farmworkers on both coasts and labor experts are expressing concern about the two dozen agricultural employees who were hospitalized last month in Salinas and Watsonville in a span of one week after fungicides and insecticides apparently drifted on to the fields where they were working.
Six raspberry pickers working near State Route 152 got sick and were rushed to Watsonville Community Hospital on June 29. A week earlier 18 celery workers were taken to the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System’s emergency room after some of them became ill.
Those cases came less than two months after more than 50 farmworkers were reportedly exposed to a pesticide drift southwest of Bakersfield that made some of them sick.
“Farmworkers in so many ways have become invisible. They put our food on the table, yet their well-being is often below the radar,” said UC Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken, who specializes in labor issues. “To have these kinds of incidents, where they are affected by potentially carcinogenic chemicals in the field, is disturbing.”
More than 1,000 people in California were sickened by pesticide exposure in 2014, the most recent year for which the Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) has such data. That year there were 51 confirmed cases in Santa Cruz County and 39 in Monterey County.
While it’s not uncommon for individual agricultural employees to become ill from chemical exposure, the recent cases involving larger numbers of workers alarmed advocates.
“Anytime a group of people are poisoned, that’s a concern,” said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist at the Oakland-based Pesticide Action Network.
The chemicals that may have gotten workers sick in the Watsonville case were Pristine Fungicide, Rally 40WSP, DiPel-DF and Widespread Max.
Some of those chemicals can interfere with reproductive and endocrine systems and can irritate skin and eyes, according to Reeves.
“Pesticides travel far from where they’re applied in concentrations that can cause people to get sick or even, over a long time, chronically ill permanently,” said Mark Weller, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform. “The same kind of thing could have happened near a school.”
“It’s very sad,” said Jeannie Economos, an activist at the Farmworker Association of Florida. “Some of these pesticides can cause long-term health consequences.”
The incidents in Watsonville and Salinas are under investigation by the agricultural commissioners in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
In California, the state’s division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) does not investigate incidents in which farmworkers get sick from chemical releases.
A spokesman for the Department of Pesticide Regulation emphasizes that it’s protocol for county agricultural commissioners, not state regulators, to lead investigations into such cases.
In the Watsonville incident, Santa Cruz County agricultural commissioner Juan Hidalgo, who’s leading that county’s probe, is refusing to release the name of the company under investigation.
Hidalgo said Wednesday that his office is conducting interviews into the incident.
“We hope to conclude interviews late next week, at which point I would be able to release the name of the operation under investigation,” he said.
That lack of disclosure outraged activists and experts.
“That is a key piece of information that one would expect to be able to have access to,” said Reeves of the Pesticide Action Network.
“I was surprised that an investigative agency was not providing the name of the firm,” UC’s Shaiken said. “Transparency is essential in any investigation of this type. Knowing the identity of the company is important.”
“It shows that the growers are on the defensive,” said Economos at the Farmworker Association of Florida.
In Monterey County the agricultural commissioner early on identified Tanimura & Antle as the company it’s investigating in connection with the incident that hospitalized 18 celery workers on June 22.
A spokeswoman for the company said this week that the firm is eager to see the results of the investigation.
“The health and safety of our workers is our primary concern,” said Samantha Cabaluna.
She noted that while 18 workers were hospitalized, not all of them showed symptoms of exposure.
The California Farm Bureau Federation, an industry group that represents farmers and ranchers in almost every county of the state, says it supports “prompt, consistent penalties for incidents in which pesticides are misused in ways that cause public or environmental injury,” according to the organization’s spokesman, Dave Kranz.
“Our organization also supports continuing education of pest control advisers and applicators in the safe and effective use of pesticides. Applicators and field employees currently undergo training on an annual basis,” Kranz said.
Courtesy of KQED and Ted Goldberg: Original post can be found here.
Delays threatens the life of workers and average Americans
Farmworker and health organizations represented by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday for delaying for a year implementation of the revised Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule, which includes much needed requirements like mandatory age minimums, as well as better training for pesticide applicators to protect workers and the public from poisoning by the most toxic pesticides.
First enacted in 1974, the CPA rule ensures those who handle the most dangerous pesticides are properly trained and certified before they apply them. New common-sense protections—which have now been delayed until May 2018—require pesticide applicators to be at least 18-years-old and improve the quality of training materials. The updated CPA rule also says applicators must be able to read and write, and increases the frequency of applicator safety trainings.
According to the EPA, there are about 1 million certified applicators nationwide. Before delaying implementation, the agency said the revised rule could prevent some 1,000 acute poisonings every year.
“EPA’s mission is to protect all Americans from significant risks to human health and yet it’s delaying life-saving information and training for the workers who handle the most toxic pesticides in the country,” said Eve C. Gartner, Earthjustice attorney. “This delay jeopardizes everyone’s health and safety.”
After years of reviews, EPA published the revised CPA Rule on January 4, updating for the first time in years how applicators of restricted use pesticides, or RUPs, are certified. RUPs are the most toxic and dangerous pesticides on the market and can cause humans serious injury or death if they are improperly handled. The rule was scheduled to go into effect March 6, but the Trump Administration delayed it as it placed a mandatory freeze on all regulations coming out of federal agencies.
"It's clear that field workers need these protections now, not later. For years we’ve put mandatory age minimums on things like alcohol, or tobacco, and yet we still let minors handle the most dangerous pesticides or won’t make sure if certified applicators can read and write,” said Erik Nicholson, national vice president of the United Farm Workers. “The Trump Administration is failing to safeguard our communities from preventable risks in the benefit of corporate profit."
“When I was pregnant with my third child, I was mixing and handling pesticides in a local nursery. I was never given proper training, or personal protective equipment, nor was I under the supervision of a certified applicator,” said Yesica Ramirez of the Farmworker Association of Florida. “My baby was born with craniosynostosis, a birth defect, plus, eczema, and sleep apnea. I will never know if the pesticides caused this, but I do know that it is important to have stronger regulations for certified applicators to protect the health of our farmworkers and our families.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, comes a month after the EPA announced a one-year delay to the rule, while offering the public just 4 days to comment on the move. Delay means minors or poorly trained applicators can continue to handle some of the most toxic pesticides in agricultural, commercial and residential settings, putting themselves and the public at risk.
"We need to do everything in our power to protect farmworkers from dangerous pesticides, the goal of this litigation is to precisely do that," said Ramon Ramirez, president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste.
When the EPA adopted the rule, it pointed to various tragic incidents where children died or were seriously injured when poorly trained applicators misused highly toxic pesticides. The agency concluded stronger standards for those applying RUPs will reduce risks to workers and help protect communities and the environment from toxic harms. Yet in delaying the rule, EPA refused to address these findings, and it failed to explain to the public how a delay would not cause unreasonable risks to people.
“The CPA rule provides basic, yet critical safety and training requirements for applicators. We can’t delay rules that can save lives,” said Anne Katten of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
There’s been high profile pesticide poisonings that could have been prevented by more stringent protections for public health. Just in 2015 there were two poisoning incidents, one in the U.S. Virgin Islands and another one in Palm City, Florida, which exemplify the need for the updated CPA rule. In both cases children suffered serious brain injuries stemming from the gross errors of pesticide applicators.
"There is no doubt whatsoever that more detailed annual training is essential to provide the protections that pesticide applicators and their families need," said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network North America.
“There is no justification for delaying common sense measures to improve. Each year of delay will result in more poisonings and deaths,” said Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health at Farmworker Justice.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Farmworker Association of Florida, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and Pesticide Action Network North America.
Twenty years of work by farmworker organizations and farmworker advocates around the country, including the Farmworker Association of Florida, are under attack by the new administration at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the recent Executive Order to “reduce regulatory burden.” Successes for farmworker health and safety achieved under the Obama Administration are being undermined, putting farmworkers at increased risk of exposure to known toxic chemical pesticides. We will not quietly accept these roll-backs, when we know the devastating consequences that exposure to pesticides has on farmworkers and their families.
WPS – Twenty years of work under threat and needless delay! In 2015, twenty years after the first regulatory reforms to give farmworkers specific rights to protection from pesticide exposure, the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) was updated and greatly improved by the EPA to include important new protective provisions, including mandated annual trainings with expanded content and a minimum age of 18 for handling agricultural pesticides. Sadly, putting the urging of industry and state agricultural agencies over science and public health, EPA issued a memo on May 22nd approving a delay of the new, more protective WPS provisions, even though there had been an exhaustive public comment period in 2015, and EPA officials themselves had previously acknowledged the need for and importance of these new regulations. The impact of this cannot be overstated. Every day, farmworkers risk their health to grow and harvest the food the rest of us eat. They deserve the regulations that can help protect their and their children’s health, not a rollback of two decades of work. Regulations are not a “regulatory burden” but a way to keep farmworkers safe.
CPA – Forty years too long; no need for further delays! The Certified Pesticide Applicator (CPA) rule has not been updated in close to 40 years. Yet, in a process started under the previous administration, the regulations that govern the training and certification of pesticide applicators of Restricted Use (the most toxic) Pesticides or RUPs went through the formal comment and review process, resulting in a new rule adopted in January 2017. The new rule would standardize training and certification across different states, and ensure a more well-informed and trained pesticide applicator workforce. This would translate into better protections for farmworkers, rural and residential communities, our water and our environment. In an unprecedented move, the EPA reversed course, announced three delays to the implementation of the new rule, with this last announcement delaying the rule for over one year. The public had a mere five days! to make comment on the delay. The rule has a 3-year phase in period to allow all states the time to comply, making any delay entirely unnecessary. For more information read.
PRIA – A program rollback undermines collaboration. The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) is a program, begun in 2003, that forged collaboration between industry, farmworkers and advocates to direct industry fees to fund programs that protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure. That collaboration between unlikely partners is now under threat of collapse, thanks to moves by the new Administration to slash the budget of the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. Funds to oversee, implement and enforce the other regulations that protect farmworkers could be drastically cut, leaving the responsibility to the states, many of which do not have sufficient resources to implement these programs. This threatens the health and well-being of farmworkers, in addition to our public health system, our food and our environment. The U.S. Senate must reauthorize PRIA for the sake of everyone in the nation.
Chlorpyrifos – The science is clear; chlorpyrifos harms children! Though it was banned for residential use in 2001 because of its known neurodevelopmental effects on children, chlorpyrifos has still been permitted for use in agriculture, where farmworkers and their children have been exposed for decades and even generations to this toxic pesticide. The science is clear – chlorpyrifos, commonly known as Dursban and Lorsban – can cause learning disabilities, ADHD, motor skills deficits among other things in children exposed in utero and/or to residues of the pesticide. At long last, EPA in 2016 agreed that the science was overwhelming and agreed to ban all food uses of the pesticide. While this decision was focused on protecting the public from consumption of the chemical on fruits and vegetables, farmworkers harvesting the produce would have been beneficiaries of the new rule. In a move that contradicts the mountain of scientific evidence of its dangers, the new EPA Administrator has reversed course, ignoring the science and public outcry, electing instead to continue the contamination of our food, and the threats to farmworker and farmworker children’s health. For more information on Chlorpyifos read this and this.
In the face of these four outrages, the Farmworker Association of Florida will push back against these decisions that are harmful to the men and women and families who feed our nation.
We will be calling on all our supporters to stand with us and many, many others to send a strong message that these decisions are totally unacceptable to the American public. We can do it! Yes, we can! Sí, Se Puede!
The Farmworker Association of Florida helped organize a rally and march in Apopka and in Homestead on May 1st for worker and immigrant rights in solidarity with actions all around the country demanding just treatment and respect for immigrants and workers in the U.S.
Working with Mi Familia Vota and Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, over 300 community members and supporters gathered at a local park and marched to and around Apopka City Hall chanting “Sí, Se Puede” and “We Are Here to Stay.” Speakers at the rally included representatives from Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Youth and Young Adult Network of National Farm Worker Ministry, Farmworker Self-Help, and Organize Florida, among others.
In Homestead, FWAF worked with WeCount! to energize and turn out workers and supporters to raise their voices in opposition to the harsh tactics and anti-immigrant rhetoric of the new administration that is threatening to tear families apart and rend the fabric of the nation. Too many families already have experienced the tragic heartbreak of detention and deportation that is separating children from their parents with gut-wrenching trauma.
The actions on May 1st were to send a message and to galvanize support for upholding the “dignity and justice for all”, that is part of the pledge of these United States of America.
Monsanto was accused of harming the environment and violating human rights and health on Tuesday (4/18) by an informal peoples tribunal led by five international judges. The tribunal was held over the course of two days at The Hague where the panel of judges heard testimonies from approximately 30 witnesses from across the globe. One of the questions presented to the judges asked their opinion on whether Monsanto was engaging in practices that violate the rights to safe food, high standards of health, and a safe environment.
The tribunal released the statement that “Monsanto’s activities and products caused damage to soil, water, and the environment more generally”. The tribunal went on further to directly urge international lawmakers to “precisely and clearly assert the protection of the environment and the crime of ecocide.” According to the tribunal, if ecocide was actually added into the letter of international law, facts in this report alone could land Monsanto with the International Crime Courts (ICC) jurisdiction.
Farmworkers need protection from the pesticides that are used in the fields, orchards, greenhouses, and groves across the country and around the world. Transition away from intensive pesticide use to more sustainable and agroecological forms of agriculture is the only solution to protect human health and the environment.
April 17th is the International Day of Peasant's Struggle and the international farmers' movement La Via Campesina calls all its members and allies to mobilize! The Farmworker Association of Florida stands in solidarity and will be mobilizing all five offices for the day.
We mobilize April 17th because on this date in "1996, 19 peasants were killed when military police in the Amazonian State of Pará in Brazil attacked a large number of members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) who were blockading a highway in order to demand agrarian reform. La Via Campesina, then declared April 17th to be the International Day of Farmers' and Peasants' Struggle."
This year, La Via Campesina wants "the world to know that peasants and other people working in rural areas have been working very hard for their rights. The rights of peasants initiative, which La Via Campesina started 17 years ago, now is in advanced process within the United Nations towards a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. This declaration, if approved, will create an international legal instrument to protect the rights of and draw attention to the threats and discrimination suffered by peasants and other people working in rural areas."
A delegation from the Farmworker Association recently returned from trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico to strengthen our connections in the agroecology movement. The group was hosted by Organizacion Boricua, and shared their experiences, stories of struggle, and their successes. Working side by side on a member's agroecological farm, it became clear that while contexts throughout the world differ, everywhere the struggle is one. So today we recognize this movement's resiliency, power, and the work done to reinforce food sovereignty, the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity; to fight for a genuine agrarian reform and a better protection against land-grabbing; continue to conserve, use, and exchange our seeds; and strengthen the solidarity among ourselves!
Two days before the annual celebration of the birthday of Cesar Chavez, the Environmental Protection Agency decided that farmworkers’ and children’s health can continue to be threatened by a harmful pesticide, while the agency continues its further study. Chlorpyrifos, commonly known as Dursban and Lorsban, was banned for residential use some 17 years ago because studies showed it was harmful to children’s health. Yet, chlorpyrifos continues to be used in agriculture, in spite of the fact that scientific studies of children exposed to the pesticide experience learning disabilities, ADHD, neurodevelopmental problems and even autism at much higher rates than the general population.
In 2007, Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned EPA to ban the pesticide, yet its use has only increased over the past decade. The EPA’s own studies have determined that this pesticide at very low levels can cause irreparable harm and damage to children’s developing brains. Farmworker children are particularly at risk, since they are exposed to pesticide drift and to residues found in and around the home, in vehicles, on clothes and toys, even in their food.
Last month’s EPA decision is being met by a fierce resistance by a coalition of organizations, which includes the Farmworker Association of Florida, and is led by attorneys at Earthjustice. They are petitioning the 9th Circuit to “establish a 30-day deadline for EPA to act on its prior findings that chlorpyrifos is unsafe and to set other deadlines for the cancellation process for the chemical.” See the article here.
“EPA’s refusal to ban this dangerous pesticide is unconscionable,” said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice managing attorney handling the case. “EPA is defying its legal obligation to protect children from unsafe pesticides. We will be going back and asking the court to order EPA to take action now, rather than in 5 more years.”
Please join us in celebrating the 18th annual National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW) from March 24-31, 2017! This is a week to raise awareness about farmworker conditions, honor their contributions to our communities and raise awareness of farmworker issues by holding events on college campuses and in the community! Every year, NFAW is planned to coincide with the birthday of American labor leader and civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez, born March 31, 1927.
National Farmworker Awareness Week serves an important purpose for all of us. This week raises awareness about the irreplaceable value that farmworkers add to our lives and communities. The hard work of farmworkers puts food in our grocery stores, in our restaurants and on our tables! This week also raises awareness about the many injustices and appalling lack of federal and state protections for farmworkers, who are not only an economic powerhouse but are our family, friends and neighbors as well.
During this year’s celebration, Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) is partnering with students at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, to organize several events on-campus designed to raise student awareness about farmworkers and the work of Farmworker Association of Florida. Events include an art exhibit, documentary showing followed by discussion, a farmer’s market, a farmworker bandana display, the opportunity for pro-farmworker and immigration emails to Senator Marco Rubio via a laptop station and the display of FWAF literature. Long sleeve t-shirt and monetary donations will also be collected for the benefit of FWAF.
Again, please join us in honoring farmworkers this upcoming week! Thank you and thank a farmworker!
In the current political climate, many of the things that we have worked for over the years and for decades are coming under attack. The progress we have made and the wins we have collectively achieved may be reversed or undermined in the coming year, leaving farmworkers in our communities ever more vulnerable and at risk, not only to harsh living and working conditions, but to detention, deportation and family separation. Fear and anxiety are affecting the way farmworkers are able to live their lives and this is affecting their health. For many, the landscape of the future looks uncertain, if not bleak.
Historically, farmworkers have had to push back against an agricultural system that exploits their labor and gives them little back in return. Farmworker movements, organizations and unions have empowered workers to fight for better wages, working conditions, housing and health and safety. But, conventional agriculture has grown ever larger and more powerful, as it relies on practices that exploit the environment and the workers who make our food supply possible.
Resistance takes on a new form! Hope comes in the form of communities resisting the dominant agriculture paradigm and putting power back in the hands of people. A new report, just released last week by WhyHunger and entitled “Through Her Eyes” follows the work of organizations and individuals that are challenging our current agricultural system by promoting and adopting the principle of “food sovereignty.” It portrays the “struggle for a new world order that centers [around] the rights of women to live freely and safely, and to lead in envisioning and crafting a world void of hunger and violence.”
Two of the Farmworker Association of Florida’s women leaders, staff members and organizers are featured in the report, sharing their personal experiences as farmworkers and the movement for resistance against and transformation of the way we do agriculture in the United States. Communities gain hope and dignity, empowerment and respect through a form of resistance that gives power back to the people. Read the report here:
- Rollins College at Farmworker Association of Florida
- Over 300 food and farm groups Urge Jeff Sessions to oppose agricultural mega- mergers
- Statement by the Farmworker Association of Florida
- Reflections on 2016