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EPA Touts New Protections For Farmworkers

Lucas Willard
EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck

On a sunny Thursday, EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck made a stop at Indian Ladder Farms beside the Helderberg hills in Altamont, New York.

“Let’s face it. Working on a farm, whether you’re the farmer, the farm family member, the farmworker, is back-breaking work. This is not an easy profession,” said Enck.

Enck used the Albany County farm as an example of a business that is treating its workers well.

“Specifically farmworker who are not exposed to pesticides,” said Enck.

The EPA is working to inform farmers and farmworkers nationwide about new standards to protect workers from harmful chemicals.

The updated federal Worker Protection Standard will go into effect in January.

“They were 23 years in the making. Don’t ask me why it took that long. But these are sweeping changes designed to protect the health of farmworkers and farmers,” said Enck.

More than 2 million agricultural workers are protected by the rules. Some of the updates would require those handling pesticides to be over the age of 18, mandate annual pesticide training, and ensure proper safety equipment like respirators. Farms are also required to provide a system for eye washing, and standards have been set for the minimum amount of water workers are to be supplied with at the beginning of each work period.

Enck, who has been spending a couple of days at various Capital Region events, was welcomed by Indian Ladder Farms President Peter Ten Eyck.

“We try to comply with all the things and we try to run a safe and well-organized thing and the EPA is one of the groups that sometimes is a carrot and sometimes is a whip but tries to help us stay on the straight and narrow so we do a job that people will be proud of,” said Ten Eyck.

The changes that will go into effect January 2nd will be enforced locally by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with technical support by EPA. Again, Judith Enck.

“And we expect every farm in New York to know the rules and make sure that they comply with these important new requirements,” said Enck.

EPA has released a video describing the new standards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0PMYSirxlY

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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