New proposed rules meant to safeguard farmworkers from pesticide exposure were announced Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with the proposed national rules likely to affect the bulk of California’s 77,000 farm operators.
The EPA’s proposed regulations are the first updating of its Worker Protection Standard in 20 years, said Jim Jones, administrator of chemical safety and pollution protection at the EPA.
The rules would demand farmworker training, new signage, whistle-blower protections and a minimum age for handling pesticides on farms, among other changes.
The rules, which now enter a 90-day comment period, are likely to be finalized by next year, Jones said. “We cannot turn our back on the people that feed out nation — they have to be protected,” he said.
State farms prospered
While 2007 to 2012 may be remembered as the Great Recession by most Californians, the state’s farmers prospered. The national Ag Census, released Thursday, shows the value of California farm products soared nearly 26 percent during those five years, making the state the nation’s top ag producer.
California agricultural sales topped $42.6 billion in 2012, compared with less than $33.9 billion in 2007.
California farmers bucked the national trend by expanding in their acreage nearly 1 percent — more than 207,000 acres — during those years. Nearly 25.6 million acres were farmed in the state in 2012.
The average size of California farms grew nearly 5 percent, increasing to 328 acres. On average, each of the state’s farms generated $547,269 in agricultural sales in 2012.
Bee virus spreads
Infectious diseases linked to the colony collapse of honeybees appear to be spreading among wild bumblebees that pollinate crops worldwide, dealing a potential double blow to agriculture, according to a new study.
Studies at 26 sites in England found that 1 in 5 bees suffered from deformed wing virus, which can ground and eventually kill the insects, according to a report published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.
More than a third of the honeybees were infected, and about 11 percent of the bumblebees carried the virus — figures that researchers called highly conservative.
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