(By Christina Stucker-Gassi, Healthy Food & Farms Program Manager)
The Senate Agriculture Committee plays a vital role in shaping the Farm Bill. In turn the Farm Bill is a package of legislation passed roughly once every five years that has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown. Covering programs ranging from crop insurance for farmers to healthy food access for low-income families, from beginning farmer training to support for sustainable farming practices, the Farm Bill sets the stage for our food and farm systems.
So how can the Farm Bill help?
The Farm Bill can make jobs mixing and spraying pesticides safer and fairer. One way this can happen is by requiring farmers and labor contractors to report to the EPA when their workers experience pesticide-related illnesses. Creating this reporting system allows for the root causes of exposure to be addressed and is a key provision within the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA). The 2023 Farm Bill should include a Labor title that supports and protects all food workers and their families.
We strongly urge Congress to adopt the following labor recommendations in the upcoming Farm Bill:
- Require employers of farm workers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;
- Direct the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop better labeling to prevent future injury;
- Close dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;
- Address the increasing use of paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world—according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.
CALL TO ACTION! Please take a few minutes to copy and paste the above labor priorities into this form which will be reviewed by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry staff. The deadline for input is March 30th!
Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA)
The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA) was reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Cory Booker on February 6th and is due to be reintroduced in the House. This bill would overhaul U.S. pesticide regulations, ultimately mandating new rules to protect people and the environment. The full text of the bill can be found here. PACTPA includes changes that farm worker advocates have been calling for for decades! While the opportunities to advance all of PACTPA within the Farm Bill is limited due to jurisdictional issues, there is agreement amongst a coalition of worker and environmental groups that NCAP is helping coordinate.
There are other provisions in PACTPA that make sense to bring up in context of the Farm Bill. The current law governing U.S. pesticide regulations—the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)—contains provisions that prioritize pesticide industry interests above the health and safety of people and our environment. Across the country, hundreds of local governments have stepped up in the wake of the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to properly regulate toxic pesticides. Leading cities and municipalities have enacted policies to restrict or ban pesticides that harm people, wildlife and the planet. In the 2018 Farm Bill process, there was an effort to federally preempt local and state governments from regulating pesticides. Stay tuned for more opportunities to engage around the issue of pesticide regulatory preemption.
Agriculture Resiliency Act (ARA)
There is also some language in the Agriculture Resiliency Act (ARA) that would create a priority for certain federal agriculture grants to prioritize ecological IPM (integrated pest management) approaches and improve climate resilience. Specifically, the ARA contains language that would add "ecologically-based pest management” and "reduce GHG emissions" as foci for grants. This is a BIG step beyond the minimal existence of one National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) IPM practice code (595) that is woefully inadequate!
If you want to learn more about NCAP’s policy work please reach out to our policy lead, Christina Stucker-Gassi: [email protected]