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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.

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.

This project is funded by the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Original artwork by Elias Vargas.


Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future



Browse our database of state laws and regulations related to pesticide and heat exposure. It includes 216 U.S. state laws, 155 state regulations, 15 pieces of proposed or enacted legislation, and three state-level guidance documents. The database will be periodically updated, and users may filter by policy type, category, state, and more.


CAFS's partners at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) published “Essential and in Crisis: A Review of the Public Health Threats Facing Farmworkers in the US,” which examines health burdens affecting farmworkers and outlines critical opportunities, challenges, and interventions to advance reform.

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