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UFW: ag commissioners must stop mass farm worker poisonings after 130-plus were victims in two weeks & ag commissioners’ face ‘inherent conflicts of interest’

Fresno, Calif.—United Farm Workers’ members and leaders will protest at 1 p.m. on Friday outside the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioners office citing two pesticide incidents that poisoned a total of 138 farm workers in Fresno and Tulare counties within nine days of each other. Those incidents coming so close together plus “inherent conflicts of interest” by county agricultural commissioners tasked with both promoting the farming industry and protecting farm workers from dangerous poisons “means ag commissioners must be especially vigilant in safeguarding field laborers from the perils of pesticides,” UFW Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes will declare at Friday’s demonstration.

Seventy-five peach workers were involved in a pesticide-poisoning incident Thursday morning at Gerawan Farming Corp. near Kerman. Fresno Fire Department’s hazmat team was dispatched and three workers were sent to the hospital. Another 63 table grape workers near Dinuba were exposed in another mass poisoning event and treated by Hazmat crews the morning of June 18, with five transported to the hospital with nausea and vomiting. The June 18 incident followed a week after a Los Banos farmer died after being exposed to an “agricultural-related” chemical, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Department. See: https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article232028327.html and https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/local/visalia/2019/06/25/ag-commissioner-finds-no-proof-violation-after-pesticide-accident/1502518001/ As of June 25, the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner’s office couldn’t find any proof of a violation from the June 18 poisonings.

“County agricultural commissioners are like other county agencies that enforce state laws and regulations,” says Elenes, the union’s No. 2 leader. “Except a chief function of the ag commissioners is also promoting the local agricultural industry—and they report to county boards of supervisors, a pretty conservative pro-industry bunch in most Central Valley counties. That’s why the ag commissioners must be even more vigorous in protecting farm workers from harm, especially when we see these mass poisoning incidents coming on top of each other.”

Who:  Central Valley farm workers, UFW Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes.

What: Protesting two mass farm worker pesticide poisoning incidents within two weeks and the “inherent conflicts of interest” plaguing county agricultural commissioners.

When: 1 p.m., Friday, June 28, 2019.

Where: Fresno Agricultural Commissioner’s office, 1720 So. Maple Ave., Fresno 93702

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