Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to rescind two key pesticide protections for field workers that were issued in 2015 by the Obama administration after working closely with the United Farm Workers. The UFW and UFW Foundation are condemning the Trump administration for voiding the requirement that farm workers who mix, load and apply pesticides be at least 18 years old. They also denounce the other proposed EPA rule change annulling the right of agricultural employees to obtain information about the pesticides to which they are exposed through their representatives, such as unions or legal aide workers. Many farm workers who are undocumented are afraid to turn to government offices for pesticide information.
The U.S. EPA, under Trump-appointed Administrator Scott Pruitt, just announced it is pulling back both protections. If that effort is successful, children will be allowed to use and apply toxic pesticides—many of which are linked to cancer or birth defects and cause acute poisoning symptoms—and farm workers will be effectively denied basic information about the poisons to which they come in contact.
The UFW worked with the Obama administration to win stronger pesticide protections for America’s two million farm workers and their families through new EPA standards announced on Oct. 20, 2015 by then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez at a unionized tomato company near Stockton, Calif. In addition to the minimum age and right-to-get-information-through-a-representative protections, the federal rules strengthened requirements for training, notification, pesticide safety and hazard communication plus use of personal protective equipment and availability of routine washing and emergency decontamination. The rules ended decades of discrimination against farm workers, who prior to those rules had far fewer pesticide protections than all other workers.