Activists Pushing For EPA Pesticide Regulations Also Got EPA Funding

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The EPA issued new regulations Monday aiming to reduce migrant farm worker exposure to pesticides. The rules got a big welcome from activist groups who have been pushing for more regulations on pesticides.

Interestingly enough, many of these same activist groups have gotten millions of dollars in grants from the EPA over the years for programs regarding migrant workers’ exposure to pesticides. In total, groups promoting EPA’s new pesticide rules have gotten nearly $2 million from the agency, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.

For example, EPA released a series of videos related to its pesticide rule, one of which was a testimonial from Amy Liebman, director of environmental and occupational health at the Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN).

Liebman was extremely supportive of EPA’s pesticide rule in the video, saying “it is so important for a stronger, revised worker protection standard.” She said the new rules would help farm workers “know their rights” when it comes to pesticide exposure.

The Migrant Clinicians Network, however, has gotten $1,578,170 in taxpayer-funded grants from the EPA since 2007, according to agency’s grants database. MCN is currently under a $760,000 EPA grant (the biggest the group has gotten from the agency) to “provide financial assistance to support a national program” training health care workers to recognize and treat “pesticide related illness.”

“These changes are an important step in the right direction and will help protect the health of farmworkers and their families from pesticide overexposure,” Liebman said in a statement released by farm worker and anti-pesticide activists.

The EPA’s new pesticide rules are aimed at protecting migrant farm workers from unnecessary exposure to pesticides on the job. The agency says that between “1,800 and 3,000 occupational incidents involving pesticide exposure are reported from the farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses” every year, and that there is “widespread underreporting.”

EPA’s new rules, for example, require farm workers to receive annual pesticide safety training and prohibit workers under 18 years old from handling pesticides — though there’s an exemption for immediate family members of farm owners. There are also new requirements for warning signs around sprayed areas and exclusion zones around spraying equipment.

“By better protecting our agricultural workers, the agency anticipates fewer pesticide exposure incidents among farmworkers and their family members,” the EPA says in its announcement. “Fewer incidents means a healthier workforce and avoiding lost wages, medical bills, and absences from work and school.”

The updated rules were welcomed by activists from across the country, including MCN. But MCN was not the only group to support the EPA’s pesticide regulation. A coalition of activist groups also came out in support of updated pesticide rules, including those that have benefited from EPA largesse.

“The updated Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), received immediate praise from dozens of farm worker, labor, public health and environmental organizations,” reads a joint press release from MCN and other activist groups.

The Farmworker Association Of Florida, for example, is a grass-roots farm worker advocacy group that has gotten two grants totalling $75,000 from EPA since 2007. Farmworker Justice, a subsidiary of the National Council of La Raza, has gotten $150,000 from two EPA grants — one in 2006 and another in 2011.

The Pesticide Action Network — an environmental group that opposes things like GMOs, chemical fertilizers and pesticides — also came out in support of EPA’s migrant worker rules. So far, PAN has gotten $98,000 from a 2012 EPA grant.

The Migrant Clinicians Network press release also mentioned more groups supporting EPA regulations that weren’t quoted, but only mentioned at the bottom under an “about our organization” section.

One such group, called Coming Clean, is a coalition of farmworker activists, environmentalists and others that work together to push policies on a broad range of issues from global warming to chemical use. And of course, many of the same groups cheering EPA’s latest pesticide rule are on the Coming Clean’s “Farmworker Health and Justice Workgroup.”

Toxic Free North Carolina is part of Coming Clean and mentioned in MCN’s press release. This environmental group has gotten $50,122 from two EPA grants for programs on migrant worker exposure to pesticides.

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