The Food System Worker Law and Policy Project exposes gaps in laws and policies that affect the health and safety of workers throughout the food chain.
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) launched the Food System Worker Law and Policy Project in 2021 with research focused on farmworkers, who—despite forming the backbone of a trillion-dollar industry in the U.S.—face a level of occupational risk unrivaled by most workers. From repeated exposure to pesticides and extreme heat, to injures from machinery and repetitive motion, conditions on American farms involve myriad hazards. Meanwhile, a lack of access to healthcare and legal services, low wages, marginalization, language barriers, racism, and the threat of deportation among these largely immigrant communities compound their many challenges.
ANALYZING COMPLIANCE WITH PESTICIDE REGULATIONS FOR FARMWORKER SAFETY
Pesticide exposure is one of the major health threats that farmworkers encounter at work, with health impacts ranging from the acute to the chronic. The Worker Protection Standard, enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, is the main federal regulation intended to address the risks associated with pesticide-related illness and injury among farmworkers in the United States. "Precarious Protection: Analyzing Compliance with Pesticide Regulations for Farmworker Safety" examines the shortfalls related to compliance with the Worker Protection Standard and presents recommendations to improve farmworker safety.
While there are many law and policy gaps that put farmworkers at risk, the second report from the Food System Worker Law and Policy Project determines that even existing regulations for pesticide safety are often under-enforced. "Exposed and At Risk: Opportunities to Strengthen Enforcement of Pesticide Regulations for Farmworker Safety," outlines how enforcement of pesticide safety regulations is extremely low due to systemic reporting issues, a complex federal and state enforcement system, and the conflicting responsibilities of some enforcing bodies. The report aims to prompt law and policy solutions formulated with the lived experience of farmworkers in mind.
The first report explores gaps in U.S. laws and policies that put farmworkers at risk. The team conducted a survey of federal and state laws, specifically focusing on those that affect two of farmworkers’ most critical workplace hazards: pesticide exposure and heat-related illness. These laws and regulations were compiled into a searchable database, available here. A report titled "Essentially Unprotected: A Focus on Farmworker Health Laws and Policies Addressing Pesticide Exposure and Heat-Related illness," published in May 2021, provides an overview of the findings as well as policy recommendations that are urgently needed to protect farmworkers.