In a rare organized action, more than 100 nonunion workers joined a work stoppage at Rancho Laguna Farms, a California grower that supplies Driscoll’s, the largest berry producer in the world. The workers were protesting a demand that they pick only the best fruit for the same pay, even though quality was spotty, making it hard to earn more than minimum wage at their piece-work rate of $1.90 a box.(No paywall)
Farmworkers are "especially at risk of falling ill from Covid-19" because they often work without protective equipment, are exposed to pesticides, and live in crowded quarters, said the advocacy groups Environmental Working Group and Farmworker Justice on Wednesday. (No paywall)
Like firefighters and police officers, farmworkers have been deemed “critical infrastructure workers,” meaning they will stay on the job even as the pandemic grows. But despite their essential status and a persistent outcry from their advocates, many of their employers, as well as state and federal agencies, have so far failed to address their heightened risk, reports Esther Honig in FERN's latest story.(No paywall)
People in some of California’s poorest towns still face exorbitant prices on staple foods more than a month after the governor declared a state of emergency that made price gouging illegal. The practice has been particularly insidious in farmworker towns like El Centro, in the Imperial Valley, and Delano, in the San Joaquin Valley. In both towns, like so many of the state’s farmworker communities, more than a quarter of residents live in poverty and most are Latino.(No paywall)
The global pandemic feels distant to 31-year-old Manuel Alejandro Lopez Delgado in his town of some 4,000 people in the state of Sinaloa, along the Gulf of California. There’s been just one confirmed case of coronavirus in the state, and that was four hours away, in the city of Culiacan. But in the next two weeks, Lopez, along with three other workers from his town, will be traveling to the U.S. to work in Washington State. The three-day bus journey will take them to the epicenter of the Covid-19 crisis in America.(No paywall)
In the name of making safety regulations easier to implement, the EPA proposed on Thursday to reduce the size of buffer zones intended to protect people from exposure to pesticides during their application on the farm. Environmental and farmworker groups said the proposal would increase the risk of pesticides being sprayed on or drifting onto workers, neighbors, and passersby.
On the same day that President Trump nominated Andrew Wheeler to be EPA administrator, the agency said it would withdraw a Trump-era proposal to set a minimum age of 16 for farmworkers to handle, mix, or apply pesticides, down from the age 18 limit specified in a 2015 regulation.
The Trump administration improperly and repeatedly delayed the pesticide applicator rule issued by the EPA in early 2017, decided U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, who declared the rule to be in effect.
Future Ag Management, a farm labor contractor in Soledad, California, will be fined over $168,000 for failing to provide farmworkers with appropriate housing conditions. The fine will be levied by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
A 2015 update of the EPA’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard required that farmworkers who handle or apply pesticides be at least 18 years old. The EPA now says it “has initiated a process to revise certain requirements in the WPS.”