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JOIN STAKEHOLDERS FROM ACROSS THE FLORIDA FOOD SYSTEM TO EXPLORE "FOOD JUSTICE"

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The Agricultural Justice Project and  the Farmworker Association of Florida are co-hosting a food justice discussion group July 27th in Gainesville.

This discussion group will create space for intentional, collaborative dialogue that unpacks and explores food justice in the Florida food system. This dialogue will foster information sharing and connection across diverse sectors and geographies.

Objectives:

● Information sharing - connecting people with ideas that are relevant to their work

● Growing social capital - developing relationships and beneficial connections

● Framing food justice as being inherent to a food systems analysis (food systems work and food justice are inherently cross-sector)

DACA and Campesinos’ Gardens Make a Difference in the Life of FWAF Staff Member

Ivan

Ivan Vazquez, Apopka Campesinos’ Garden coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida and a DACA recipient, talks about how both have changed his life in deep and meaningful ways. Ivan is a valued and beloved Farmworker Association of Florida staff member, whose skills, abilities and leadership have grown and continue to grow through the responsibilities he has taken on and through the role he plays within the organization.

Coordinating Apopka area community members and student and young adult volunteers in weekend work days in the FWAF’s community garden, to speaking out on behalf of himself and other DACA young people, Ivan has come to be seen as a humble, yet strong and dedicated, leader in his community. The recent stories of the separation of immigrant children from their families was a source of pain and outrage for Ivan, as it was for all of us at FWAF. Rather than remain silent in the face of these tragic separations, Ivan, along with other FWAF staff, marched with hundreds of others around the state for the rights and protections of our Brothers and Sisters coming across our southern border, and for all people, who deserve no less than universal, basic human rights and dignity, respect and freedom.

Listen to Ivan here, as he shares his story: https://www.thelovevote.org/campaign/ivan/

 

Dangerous Merger Approval Has Consequences for People and the Planet

 

FWAF Statement

The Farmworker Association of Florida affirms the right of farmworkers to live and work in healthy environments and communities and upholds our commitment to the transformation of our current agricultural system to one that is free of corporate control and that puts power back into the hands of communities and the people

 

This week, on May 30th, the U.S. Department of Justice gave the green light to the merger of two mega-giant, multinational corporations and opened the door for further consolidation of the agrochemical and seed markets around the globe. Referred to as “a marriage made in hell,” the merger of transnational corporations Bayer and Monsanto follows the recent merger of the Dow and Dupont chemical companies and the consolidation of Syngenta and ChemChina before that. What used to be known as the “Big Six” dominant agrochemical companies around the world has rapidly become the “Big Four,” thus, reducing competition in the marketplace and further limiting options for the worlds’ farmers. Bayer and Monsanto are producers of genetically modified cotton, soybean and canola seeds and they make the pesticides that accompany their GMO products. A poll of farmers around the U.S. found that 93.7 percent of farmers are concerned that the proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger will negatively impact independent farmers and farming communities (83.9 percent are very concerned/9.8 percent somewhat concerned).

This is the wrong direction for agriculture. While people around the world are increasingly asking questions about how their food is produced and wanting access to organically grown non-GMO options, this merger puts more power and influence in the hands of those controlling large-scale, monocrop, chemically dependent forms of agriculture. Our current conventional agricultural system is responsible for poisoning lands and water on five continents; causing illness, injury and death to people and communities, including farmworkers; triggering a decline in insects that are critical to pollination of food crops; and is responsible for land grabs from traditional and subsistence-farming communities worldwide. The myth is that more pesticides, fertilizers and genetically-modified crops are necessary to feed the growing population of the world. The reality is that this form of agriculture is causing devastating harm to the environment, wildlife and human health.

What is the solution? The Farmworker Association of Florida subscribes to the concept of Food Sovereignty – putting control of their food system in the hands of the people – which is the only ultimately sustainable solution. And, FWAF, as a member of La Via Campesina embraces the philosophy and practice of agroecology as both a return to and resurgence of ancestral techniques and knowledge of agricultural practice that is in harmony with the land, the water, the air and the people in dynamic interaction to produce food and herbs and medicinal plants that are healthy and regenerative for people and the planet.

We will continue to oppose and resist these mergers and other forms of corporate control over our lives and our food and will seek justice for people and the planet! Join us in this vitally important resistance.

Domestic Fair Trade Association Announces Release of Important New Report

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"A Report on Market and Supply Chain: Research on Domestic Fair Trade"

The Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA), in partnership with the Center for Fair and Alternative Trade (CFAT) at Colorado State University, is releasing a groundbreaking compilation of all the research that’s ever been done about domestic fair trade. A Report on Market and Supply Chain: Research on Domestic Fair Trade is coming out on May 11, 2018 for World Fair Trade Day!

This exciting report is the first of its kind and displays a comprehensive overview of research regarding consumer market patterns and awareness of domestic fair trade messaging. Information about consumer preferences from this newly compiled research brings valuable insight for farmworkers, farmers, food co-ops, and NGOs committed to ecological sustainability and social justice. 

The term “local” is reported to be a widely effective marketing phrase and there is evidence that domestic fair trade advocates can utilize this angle to uplift fairness for farmworkers and small/mid-size farmers. Products that offer human benefits, such as good working conditions, may be able to obtain a greater price premium and have a wider appeal than those focusing just on animal or environmental benefits.

Release of this report is in celebration of World Fair Trade Day, an inclusive worldwide festival of events hosted by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), celebrating Fair Trade’s contribution to sustainable development, economic empowerment of small producers, gender equality in workplaces, and responsible production practices.

Support Domestic Fair Trade! #BeDomesticFairTrade #FairTradeDay #Stand4Fairness #LiveFair @thedfta https://bit.ly/2rtfIY3

A Merger Affecting Millions and Billions

 

Farmworkers and Rural Communities on the Front Lines
FWAF Statement of Principles

It crept in quietly yesterday in the news, but the impact will be felt worldwide. And, it will be coming to your dinner plate soon.

The underreported decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to give the green light to the mega-merger of agrochemical giants Bayer and Monsanto will insidiously affect the lives of everyone on the planet. Does this sound like hyperbole? Consider this:

The obvious impacts of this merger are the consolidation of corporate control in fewer and fewer hands and the political power that gives to the corporations. And, there is growing international concern over companies putting profits above people. If you are concerned about increased GMO products on the grocery store shelves; pesticides in your food or causing bee colony collapse; chemical fertilizers poisoning our lakes, rivers and streams; small, family farms becoming on “endangered species;” and large conventional farms using mono-crop growing techniques that strip the nutrients from the soil and exacerbate the need for more chemical inputs, then you should be concerned about this merger.

But, there are less apparent potential impacts, as well. For farmworkers and those living in rural, agricultural communities, it is likely that your risk of exposure to pesticides and agrochemicals will increase, now that the corporations will have every incentive to develop and sell more and more pesticides to ensure farmers’ need for and dependence upon their products. If you live outside the United States, you can expect that these corporations will be looking to your country to “expand their markets”, and for countries with lax regulations, this could mean more chemical contamination and subsequent health consequences.

Two important impacts of this merger that will be more subtle are the increase in land grabs worldwide that we can expect to be on the horizon, as incentives for agricultural land to be swallowed up by big landholders beholden to – and/or owned by – these corporations increases. When land grabs of small land holders and subsistence farmers explodes, (as some may well argue it already has!) we can expect more migration and worldwide instability. Yet, no one is talking about this, though we know it to be true. It is a pattern that we have already seen – and felt - the consequences of.

The Farmworker Association of Florida, in collaboration with many other organizations around the country, worked diligently over the past year and a half to oppose the merger of giants Bayer and Monsanto. We collectively conducted a farmer survey (link here) that was delivered to US DoJ, as well as we have worked with ally organizations, states, and others to raise awareness and elicit public comment. Over one million people responded by commenting on the record that they stood in opposition to the merger. Now that that merger has been given the ill-conceived ‘green light’, FWAF wants to affirm its commitment of principles: of justice and safety for farmworkers everywhere; of support for small family farms and farmers in the U.S. and abroad; for land-based subsistence communities at the base of our society; and for food sovereignty and the theory and practice of agroecology. We also affirm our continued and concerted RESISTANCE to the corporate control of our lands, our air, our water, our communities, our cultures, our people, our system of agriculture, our lives and our planet. This merger of titans may have been approved by the highest levels of national government, but we, the Davids in our communities, are armed with our slingshots.

Viva La Lucha! Long live the Struggle!

We Need a Clean DREAM Act Now

FWAF Statement of Support for a Clean DREAM Act

The Farmworker Association of Florida supports and demands immediate passage of the DREAM Act (HR. 3440), which would allow a path to legal status and U.S. citizenship to millions of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) young people.  We also support extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for those recipients from Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua who are escaping harsh and dangerous conditions in their homelands.  Failure to pass a clean DREAM Act and extended TPS would result in the tearing apart of families in our communities and a loss to our country of the talent, creativity, ambition and dedication these immigrants bring to our communities.

We also reject attachment of the DREAM Act to any other bill going through the legislative process. We reject any proposals that would include in them and/or make passage dependent upon funding for a border wall, for detention centers, interior enforcement, and withholding of funds from local and state governments who protect the immigrant communities of our country in any way.

We further urge everyone to find their elected representatives and contact them to let them know you support the DREAM Act sponsored by Congresswoman Roybal-Allard and would like them to cosponsor the bill. Legislative representatives represent everyone in their district, regardless of status.

International Agroecology Exchange - Reflections from the US Delegation to South Africa

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2017 South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange

In October 2017, seven delegates from the US representing farmworker and African-American farmer organizations participated in the second South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange. For 10 days, the delegates visited the provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo, and the Western Cape to meet with small farmers, farmworkers, Agroecologists, and organizers in the Food Sovereignty movement. Together they learned and exchanged social, political, and technical aspects of Agroecology. The 2017 Agroecology Exchange was co-organized by US Food Sovereignty Alliancemembers WhyHunger (NY), Community Alliance for Global Justice (WA), and Farmworker Association of Florida, and South Africa-based Surplus Peoples Project. (Please read this press release for more background and see photos from the Exchange.)

Article Series

Starting in November and ending in January, members of the delegation will author a series of articles reflecting on different aspects of the Exchange. They will share how their trip to South Africa shaped new ideas, tactics, connections, and other means of continued engagement in the global Food Sovereignty movement, and how they're bringing these insights to their local organizing.

The series will also include perspectives on Agroecology in South Africa after learning from on-the-ground practitioners involved in organizations including Surplus Peoples Project, Mopani Farmers Association, African Centre for Biodiversity, Ithemba Farmers Association, the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union, Mawubuye, Trust for Community Organization and Education, Rural Legal Centre, and others.

Article Series Calendar

All articles will be published on the US Food Sovereignty Alliance website (www.usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org) on the following Wednesdays:

  • November 29: Dean Jackson, Hilltop Urban Gardens (Tacoma, WA)
  • December 6: Edgar Franks, Community to Community Development (Bellingham, WA)
  • December 13: Alsie Parks, Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network (New Orleans, LA)
  • January 3: Shalon Jones & Ben Burkett, of Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (Mississippi)
  • January 10: Kathia Ramirez, The Farmworker Support Committee (New Jersey)
  • January 17: Justina Ramirez, Farmworker Association of Florida

Please help distribute these necessary analyses on the importance of Agroecological Farming!

Agroecology is an agricultural method based on the traditional knowledge of those who cultivate the land. Its practice is critical to addressing hunger, cooling the planet, and increasing communities' access to basic resources such as land, water and seeds. The increased corporatization of agriculture in Africa and the US sidelines small-and-medium sized family farmers in service to increased profits for agribusiness. The South Africa-US Agroecology Exchanges exists to directly confront this trend and to exchange experiences, tools, and strategies for resistance and to strengthen the Food Sovereignty movement.

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The Farmworker Association of Florida is a 34-year old, statewide, grassroots, non-profit, farmworker membership organization with five offices in the state of Florida and over 10,000 members that work in the vegetable, citrus, mushroom, sod, fern and ornamental plant industries in the state.

 

FWAF Joins Hurricane Relief Efforts for Puerto Rico

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In late September, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 storm with 155-mph winds. It left 100% of the island without power causing an estimated $85 billion in damages across an island already in an 11-year recession.

"I knew it was bad but seeing the families arriving firsthand at the airport was difficult, many come here with no real connections in Florida, so they are homeless and scared with what's to come, they came here out of desperation because they were promised help but there are so many families that the help, especially with housing is very slim" says FWAF AmeriCorps volunteer who assisted with families arriving at Orlando International airport disaster relief welcome center.

FWAF staff members, allies, and community members have been similarly affected, with friends, family, and even homes impacted by the storm on their island homeland. 

In Puerto Rico, Nearly 5,000 people remain homeless in shelters after the storm, with many using rainwater to shower if they are fortunate enough to have access to uncontaminated water sources. The EPA received reports of people attempting to access water out of desperate need at toxic Superfund sites located in Caguas, San German and Dorado. The death toll is at odds as the confirmed number rose to 45 people. Conflicting numbers arise as reports come out of at least 450 reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and at least 69 people are reported still missing. Members of Congress request immediate official audits of hurricane related deaths.

It’s been four weeks since the initial chaos, and the Isla De Encanto is slowly attempting to breathe from the destruction of this impactful natural force. Currently about 17% of the electrical grid is back on, providing some relief to families who have not yet been able to communicate with their family members.

Puerto Rico's agriculture has been severely damaged, affecting not only the livelihood of the farmworkers and farmers but also the food sources available to export and the Caribbean island itself," Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry, said Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture."

With not much hope left to cling onto in the island, thousands of Puerto Rican Families have been pouring into the mainland joining the 1 million Puerto Rican families already in Florida, 80% of flights leaving P.R are arriving in Florida.

The FWAF has joined relief efforts for Puerto Rico

Donations can be brought to the FWAF main office in Apopka. Please refer to the donations request list here and on our Facebook page.

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Hurricane Irma Impacts Farmworkers In Florida

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.  

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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. 

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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.

Farmworker Association Decries Trump Administration Decision on DACA

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!

Listen to testimony by DACA recipient and FWAF staff member, Ivan, local agroecology and community garden organizer . Thanks to SJ Renfroe of Rollins College for the interview and video

President Trump Pardon

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.”

RAISE ACT AN ASSAULT ON FAMILIES OF COLOR AND AMERICAN VALUES

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.

 

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Braceros Strike After One Worker Dies

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Farmworker Association of Florida Supports Blue Card and Opposes the DHS Security Spending Bill


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.

Advocates Concerned About Chemical Drifts That Sickened Central Coast Farmworkers

 

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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.

 

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