MD Farmworkers Sue EPA Over Pesticide-Training Materials
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Farmworkers are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to make pesticide safety training mandatory across the agricultural industry.
Pesticide training materials have been updated since 2015, but to date, the information that would provide the dos-and-dont's of handling pesticides has been kept off a federal register to announce its availability. Farmworkers represented by Earthjustice claim the delay puts lives at risk.
Jessica Culley works with CATA, the Farmworkers Support Committee in Maryland. She said agriculture is the main economic driver on the Eastern Shore, and those families need to be protected from chemical poisoning.
"There are thousands of farm workers who come in to pick fruits and vegetables and watermelons that we all enjoy,” Culley said. “And most of those farms are not organic farms, they are conventional farms that are using pesticides. And so these protections for workers are essential."
Opponents and the EPA point to the information being publicly available for more than a year. But groups representing farmworkers say the EPA needs to take more aggressive steps, considering the thousands of workers poisoned each year.
Earthjustice staff attorney Hanna Chang said the EPA is illegally withholding information that farmworkers need in order to be safe from pesticide exposure.
"It makes no sense to withhold this type of training from people who really need it, who EPA has recognized need to protect themselves,” Chang said. “I don't know what their justifications are. I'm sure they'll provide some. But in the meantime, there are tens of thousands of workers who are not getting the kind of training they should be getting."
She added that according to the government's own findings, benefits of enforcing the new training materials would exceed $64 million each year in avoided health costs.