Two million farmworkers help grow, tend and harvest the food that we put on our tables every day. They are the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers whose hard work and long days enable us to have healthy, plentiful food. They are often exposed to hazards from pesticide exposures and need the same workplace protection that other industry workers have had for decades.
It’s been 20 years since the rules providing protections to farmworkers were updated. In February of this year, the agency proposed for public comment on a revised Worker Protection Standard. The proposal is the result of numerous discussions across the country with farm workers, farm owners, states and others on what is working, what is not, and what needs to be improved when it comes to the current rule.
Today, we are extending the public comment period until August 18 in response to requests from growers, industry, states and farmworker advocates. We want to ensure that a diverse set of stakeholders have an opportunity to make their voices heard so that we have a protective and workable rule for years to come.
The opportunity to revise the rule may not come again for some time, so we are committed to getting it right. Since February we have had mass e-mailings, numerous conference calls, webinars, and meetings with farm workers, their advocates, state enforcement regulators, growers, and others to explain the revisions and get input. Between now and the end of the comment period we will continue this expansive communication effort.
Updating the 20-year old regulation to provide more protections to farmworkers from pesticide exposure is a priority for EPA. The proposed revisions include mandatory pesticide safety training every year versus every five years and the addition of a “no entry” buffer areas of 25-100 feet around fields where pesticides are being applied. It includes a first-time minimum age requirement for handling pesticides, mandatory posting of warning signs around treated areas for the more hazardous pesticides, mandatory record keeping for two years, and mandates that information regarding pesticide hazards and their applications be available to farm workers and their advocates. The proposed rule continues the exemptions for family members working on family farms.
The comment period ends August 18. We encourage you to comment on the proposal in English or in Spanish.